Brian Crawford looked out of the airliner as it crossed North Central Texas. After some years in the United States Army Brian was finally going home to Manning Lake, the only place he would ever feel comfortable calling home.
Manning Lake was where Brian had grown up along with his two older brothers, their widowed father making things work after Brian’s mother died in an auto accident six months after his birth. Now at age twenty-six, with eight years of military service under his belt after having left for the Army the morning after high school graduation, Brian was ready to settle into the family home with his father for a while. After he had adjusted to his new job with the Department of Wildlife Enforcement, he would look for his own place to live. And, of course, that place would be in the community of Manning Lake, and along the shore of the lake if possible.
The community of Manning Lake rested on the bank of and was named after the large reservoir created in 1910 when Manning Creek was damned up to control flooding that had ruined some cattle grazing land, and even swept away a couple of herds of cattle in flash floods. Over the decades the town of Manning Lake had taken on dual personalities. The actual population of permanent residents was less than four thousand. But when it got cold up north, the rental cottages and motels would swell with snowbirds coming to take advantage of the pleasant climate and the boating and fishing offered by the large lake. The lake had also become renowned for bass fishing in the tournaments held there, something that Brian looked forward to as well.
The community had flourished to a greater extent than Peyton Bay, a similar small town five miles away at the east end of the lake. Peyton Bay also had a small beach, cottages and motels, bars, and an eclectic assortment of shops. It was where Coach’s brother lived and also sold souvenirs. Aside from his sons, Coach’s brother was his only remaining family.
For most of the year Manning Lake was a tourist mecca. Local business types anxious to make the town and the lake shore more appealing had, decades before, begun trucking in soft white sand for the substantial beach to add to that which occurred naturally. As a result the beach at Manning Lake was usually a bustle of tourists visiting the many bars and restaurants near the waterfront, with displays of bikinis that had become legendary, even drawing a healthy share of college students over spring break.
Now Brian would be one of the handful of wildlife officers in charge of enforcing fishing regulations on the lake and hunting rules on the surrounding land. But Brian had served six of his eight years in the Army as a military policeman, including experience in drug enforcement. His résumé had stood out, and he was going to be spending most of his time enforcing hunting and poaching laws, something a little more complex, and much more hazardous in terms of unpredictability.
A couple of ranchers who owned prime white-tailed deer habitats had succumbed to the lure of money offered by poachers wanting to conduct out of season hunts. The same poachers were suspected of running drugs in the area, and Brian’s résumé made him stand out for some interesting assignments.
Most of all Brian was looking forward to seeing the residents of Manning Lake once again, his father in particular. Mike Crawford was a retired teacher and coach at Manning Lake High School, and since he had retired from the school system four years earlier he was still known to everyone in the community simply as “Coach.”
Even though two men had unsuccessfully tried to take his place as the football coach, the title stuck with him. Those who called him anything but Coach referred to him as Big Mike. That nickname was also fitting for a man who was 6’2” tall and 250 pounds of solid muscle. He had a shock of dark brown hair and chiseled features around his deep, piercing eyes. Everyone who knew the family agreed that Brian was simply a younger but leaner version of Coach.
Brian’s mother Evelyn had been gone now for nearly twenty-six years, but Coach still heavily mourned her loss. To occupy his time he decided to make his longtime hobby of wood crafting into a little business. Now, among the T-shirt shops and small stores selling everything from bikinis to shot glasses, Coach Crawford’s Wooden Crafts and Souvenirs took a proud place along the beachfront.
In that shop Coach sold knickknack shelves, custom name signs for homes, dinner plates and drinking cups made from wood, souvenir spanking paddles, board games and little coin banks that looked like rustic cabins. Coach did not make much money, and in his four years of operating the business he had really just broken even. But it did help to pass the time and have constant contact with others.
His brother Marvin had a similar shop in Peyton Bay, and sometimes they would trade items back and forth to keep their inventories from getting stale. Coach had even expanded to dealing in souvenir wholesaling to other shops in that part of Texas.
What really kept Coach going was his interaction with those who came by his shop, both local residents he had known for decades and the many tourists who enjoy browsing through the quaint offerings. He was known as both a gruff and rigid coach and educator, and a man who loved the community and was suspected of doing good deeds in a way in which he could not be found out.
Coach loved his three sons, and the two oldest, Michael Junior and Devon, lived in Manning Lake and operated Manning Brothers’ Electrical Service. Coach was certainly proud of his two eldest offspring who had made their way in the business world. And as each of them turned eighteen years of age he encouraged them to feel free to address him as everyone else did: Coach. And all of his sons did, as a term of endearment and respect for that part of his life their father most identified with.
But he had greatly missed Brian, and the separation brought about by serving in the Army had greatly bothered Coach, especially during the two years he was in combat zones. Coach could not help but recognize that Brian had always stood out. He never got in trouble, had always been respectful, and was known within the community as a young man of the highest integrity. Coach could not help but beam with pride at how everyone around him saw his boy. Now his youngest was coming home after serving his country and putting his life at risk. And he was returning with the accompanying hope that for a least several years he would remain in the area of Manning Lake.
Wendy Howard was an enigma. She was also gorgeous, twenty years of age, and capable of being a nonchalant party girl, then pivoting in a moment to reveal a heart of gold. She had just finished her second year of college at the small, local private university, one of the few young people in the community whose parents could afford the stiff tuition. Nearly all of the students there were from out of the area, Wendy being one of the few “townies” on campus.
The college had been founded in 1940 and quickly became known as a plush party school for spoiled rich kids who wanted a campus with great year-round weather and a beach within sight of the campus commons. Wendy’s privileged background brought her quick acceptance by the student body, many of whom saw her wealthy family as setting her above other young residents who had grown up in the town.
Wendy did not mind living at home while going to school. She was the only child of a state senator who had also done well investing in real estate enterprises throughout a three-state area. There were not many families in Manning Lake with the means to live a lifestyle comparable to Lowell and Millie Howard.
Wendy loved her family, but she could not help but enjoy her parents’ annual one-month trip to a fly-in fishing resort in Saskatchewan. Now she would have the house to herself for four weeks, free of the concerned and watchful eyes of her mother and father. It would be another carefree summer for her, as her parents had no expectations of her taking a job and provided her with more than an adequate amount of spending money. Wendy was spoiled, and she knew it. And loved it.
Wendy was an excellent student who would freely acknowledge that her intellect usually exceeded her judgment. She had never had to make a court appearance, but she certainly had a reputation for being a creative prankster. Most of her shenanigans were innocent and of no harm to anyone.
But she was known to enjoy beverages she was really not old enough to possess, and her willpower to pass up a chance to smoke some grass had failed her on a handful of occasions. Her parents had good reason to be concerned about her when they were gone, in spite of her being twenty years of age.
Wendy had learned in her adolescence that her physical beauty set her apart from many others. She was hardly statuesque at 5’3”, but she had any eye for fashion. Typically she chose outfits capable of captivating a young male’s attention, making her modesty and reticence all the more frustrating for those who misinterpreted her style. She probably owned as many dresses as any female in Manning Lake, each one chosen to complement her light brown hair. And each and every dress and skirt she owned was short, as she knew that she had superb legs and a body sculptured so as to break hearts.
This was the same young woman who would take part in any benefit or fundraiser on behalf of children. And she was always mindful that she had been privileged to have been raised with advantages far from typical, even in Manning Lake. On a couple of occasions Wendy had taken the initiative to create and organize events to raise money for Christmas presents for poor children in the community. On more than one occasion she had been seen crying in happiness at the results.
She got excellent grades in high school, served as a cheerleader, and participated in many organizations. To no one’s surprise, she was the prom queen during her senior year but rose at daybreak the morning after the dance to take part in a charity relay run to aid a poor family with several children whose mother had suffered a severe illness.
Things changed very little after graduation in the beginning of college. Wendy was constantly on the Dean’s list during her first two years at the university. But when something mischievous or unexplained happened, she was a usual suspect who could never be proven to have taken part.
Wendy was the fresh-faced girl next door with perfect teeth, a cute figure, and long light brown hair. Some young men referred to her as a “tease” because she was known to dress somewhat seductively for a young lady who would never allow anyone past “second base.”
In that way she was somewhat different from the group of close friends she maintained from her high school days, most of whom attended the local state college. Wendy was the sole virgin of the group, most of whom who had been diagnosed in their high school years with what they themselves had labeled “jock itch,” an ongoing quest to date and seduce star athletes.
They still hung around together, preferably at the beach, frequently enjoying each other’s company by driving young men to distraction with their minimal bikinis and flirtatious personalities. And sometimes they were content to sit beneath one of the cabana umbrellas at one of the lakeside establishments sipping on their disappointingly alcohol-free beverages.
They gossiped about friends for a while, then discussed something that was becoming local folklore. Poor families would occasionally rise in the morning to find one or two bicycles on the front porch, sizes of the bikes in accordance with the sizes of the children who lived there.
For those families without a front porch or a safe place for a bike to be left, a local church would find bikes leaning against their doors after having been placed there during the night. In such cases, there would be a name tag designating who the bikes were for.
Manning Lake was a small community, so the names and identities of families in need is not exactly a state secret. The local weekly newspaper wrote an extensive story on the matter, and assigned the name “the Bike Angel” to the anonymous donor.
Having discussed that matter briefly, the young women returned to their gossip about dates, hookups, and breakups. World affairs would have to be discussed on another night.
That was the case on this particular evening as they sat at the sheltered table, deciding what prank they would play this year and on which lakeside business. After all, the girls were adept at distraction; one year the barber had found out too late that his talcum powder dispenser had somehow been filled with flour. Another year the skipper of a sightseeing boat and his passengers were treated to a rude jolt by an additional submerged rope that had been secured to the peer and attached to the engine’s propeller overnight.
One other more harmless bit of mischief the group had been responsible for was totally filling the interior of the florist’s delivery van with balloons. It seems that they had moved on from their junior high and high school days when they had to be content with Halloween stunts such as filling paper bags with horse manure, placing them on the victim’s front porch right outside the door, setting them aflame and ringing the doorbell and running away. They would hide behind bushes or a car to watch the befuddled resident stomping on the bag to put out the fire before realizing what was in it.
Now it was time for them to go through what would be the fourth observance of their annual ceremony of picking out which one of them would carry out the prank for this year and selecting the business to be victimized. They began to speak quietly while Marsha Youngblood assigned each of them a side of a single dice.
The dice would be rolled until one of their numbers came up. The next step would be for them to write names of businesses on small pieces of paper, fold them up, and drop them into an empty chip bowl. The girl who had been designated by the roll of the dice to be the prankster would then close her eyes, reach into the bowl, and retrieve one of the business names. A prank would be expected to have been performed on the selected business within forty-eight hours of the gathering.
Wendy’s closest friend Carla Townsend wrote all four of their names down on a slip of paper, listing them alphabetically by the first name. Each was then assigned a number of one through four. If the dice turned up a five or six, they would have to roll again.
Wendy, as fate would have it, was designated with the number four. They watched in amusement and anxiety as Wendy pulled a dice from her purse, shook it around in her clasped hands, then released it to fall to the table. The four of them watched in fascination as a small plastic cube rattled around before settling with the side with four black dots on top.
Wendy covered her face and laughed as her friends teased and encouraged her. Now that the prankster had been designated, it was time to pick which business would be visited with some mischief. Now they set about listing potential targets, a slip of paper with each of them folded into a small square and dropped into the empty bowl. When fifteen had been declared to be eligible for whatever mischief Wendy decided to visit upon them, it was time for the drawing.
Carla held the bowl a couple of feet off the table, and Wendy put one hand over her eyes and reached up to the bowl and felt around until one of the tiny folded papers was in her grasp. Now all eyes were on the small, tightly-folded slip of paper that Wendy nervously worked to undo.
The slip of paper was finally flat in front of her, and she shook her head and laughed as she held it up and proclaimed. “Coach’s souvenir store.”
The response was a chorus of “Ooohhh…” from her companions. Carla placed her hands to the sides of her head. “Maybe we shouldn’t have put that store on the list.”
Wendy laughed and shook her head. “Too late to change the rules. I like the challenge. We don’t have to be afraid of him anymore.”
Jodi Michaels spoke up. “Yeah… he can’t spank us with a paddle anymore.”
The girls began to laugh, and Wendy waved away the comment. “Coach never paddled any girls. That was always Mrs. Copeland’s job.”
Jodi put her hands up. “I swear… Carol Riggins was in my oldest sister’s class. She got caught with one of those little airline bottles of bourbon, sharing it with some other girls outside over lunch break. The janitor caught them, and she was holding the bottle.
“That was when that guy Doug Young was the principal. Carol had two weeks… two weeks to go before she graduated. Young gave her a choice of missing graduation ceremonies or taking a paddling from Coach. She told my sister she got eight whacks and bawled her eyes out, and she couldn’t sit down until after dinner.
Marsha Youngblood laughed and nodded her head. “That was true. If you were caught bringing alcohol to school you’d be sent to Coach to get your butt busted, male or female.”
Carla laughed. “At least he raised three hot sons. All prime, grade-A hunks. They all resemble their old man.”
Wendy chimed in. “Especially Brian. I could have the hots for that guy. I would see him around when he would come home on leave from the Army. I do find him kind of… I mean, if he hadn’t treated my cousin LeeAnn so rotten. Even so, I always thought that he was just simply the best-looking…”
Jodi reached across the table and took Wendy by the hand. “You know that he’s coming home, don’t you? He’s finished with the Army and is going to be some kind of wildlife ranger or something.”
Wendy seemed distracted for a moment. “I don’t think I realized that. But, whatever. I’m still mad at him about what happened with LeeAnn.”
Carla shrugged and laughed. “I think I heard through the grapevine the last time he was home he commented to a couple of guys, kind of like he was wondering if you were seeing anyone. I think the soldier may have a crush on you, so maybe you had better not dismiss the prospect out of hand.” The comment generated a round of cheers and whistles.
Wendy felt her face turning warm. “Time to change the subject.”
They all began to talk at once, until Wendy held up her hands to silence them. “I think I know what I’m going to do. But I’m going to do one thing differently. I know we’ve always done this by distracting the business owner while another of us actually did the deed.
“But this time it’s going to be done by just me. And I’ll tell you what, girls: I’m going to do it after he closes his shop. I’m going to find a way to get inside. I know that he always has pieces of wood stacked up on that back table, and sometimes people watch him making stuff, so he always has it right there.
“I’m going to do it tomorrow night, and the next morning when he opens his shop, he’s going to find all of his stacked up wood glued together, and things on his shelves will be glued in place.”
Carla leaned toward her with a shocked look on her face. “You’re talking about something way more serious if you’re going to break in. That can get you in real trouble with the law, even if your dad is a state senator. After all, wouldn’t that be breaking and entering, or burglary, or something?”
Wendy motioned for them to lean together. “I had Coach for science one year, and several study halls. He was always trying to catch me at something, and he knew I was good at getting away with things. I think that when we graduated, it broke his heart that he never had a chance to send me to see dear old Mrs. Copeland to give me a spanking with that old paddle of his she always used.”
A wicked grin appeared across Wendy’s face. “He was always out to get me… I think it’s time for me to pay him back for all those times he gave me the evil eye”
Carla laughed. “But did he ever give you the evil eye when you really weren’t up to some mischief? Maybe you should’ve been paddled.” Wendy simply arched her eyebrows and grinned in response.
Wendy began to giggle. “I just remember our senior year when that gorgeous John Baxter came here from Oklahoma to be the new assistant principal.” She lowered her voice and looked around. “I had such a crush on him… I don’t think I would’ve minded it very much if he would’ve warmed up my butt.”
Her comment generated a round of catcalls as she continued. “For that matter, I wouldn’t have minded if he would’ve laid me across his lap and spanked me with his hand.”
Carla was doubled over in laughter. “Wendy, you are too much of a goody two-shoes flirt to be kinky.”
The next day Brian Crawford glanced at his watch, then leaned back in the bus seat and leaned his head against the window. He promised himself that one of the first things he would do after he spent some time visiting with his father would be to go to the only used-car lot in Manning Lake and buy his first car. Or maybe he would buy a fishing boat first, then something to pull it with.
It was just a little after 6:00 PM, and he knew that the bus would not arrive in Manning Lake until after midnight. However, he had told his father to not expect him until the following day. He decided he could surprise Coach but not keep him up all night awaiting his arrival. He recalled that the bus depot had at least one padded bench inside, and he had slept under worse conditions in deserts in the Middle East.
He closed his eyes and smiled as he thought of his father, the brothers he had not seen in over a year, and the town in general. Then his expression turned solemn as the vision of their mother’s headstone in the cemetery appeared in his memory. He wondered what she really would have been like.
He was looking towards spending time with those who still lived in the town of his youth. He thought of his old buddies, a couple of whom were still in town, then grinned as he thought of a few of the girls he had dated in high school. Of course, it was a girl too young for him in those days who now monopolized his thoughts in that regard, and she would be twenty now.
When he had been home on leave for a couple of days the year before or, he had gone with one of his old friends to one of the bars along the beach. As they sat beneath an umbrella shielding them from the bright afternoon sun, he could not quite succeed in averting his gaze from a pair of fine-looking young ladies strolling down the beach in tiny bikinis.
He tried to be polite and attentive to his buddy’s description of the customization work he had done on an old Corvette, but the one girl looked quite intriguing. Then he remembered. Oh, yes. It was that Howard girl, the one with the rich parents. The one who had undeniably grown up to fill out a bikini to perfection.
He nearly interrupted the one-sided conversation, then decided that within a year he would be coming back to Manning Lake, probably for the rest of his life. He hoped that he would find someone there to share that life with him.
Mike “Coach” Crawford wished the final tourist browsers a good night at around 11:30. At least they had bought a set of several wooden plates and coffee cups to go with them. They had also picked up a couple of the wooden savings banks to take to their grandchildren back in Illinois.
He decided to go ahead and close up and turn off the lights. He wasn’t feeling very tired on this night, and he decided that he would spend an hour or two in the back room that he kept closed off from public view and, for that matter, public knowledge. There was tinkering and repairs to get done, and since his special project was a clandestine one-man effort, he had to get things done when he had the chance to work in total privacy.
He stretched and poured the last cup of coffee into his mug. He sipped at the strong black liquid as he went around the small shop closing the windows, pulling down and locking the large garage door that served as a storefront, and turning off the lights. Just as he was to reach toward the side door to lock it, his phone chimed, and he smiled to see that it was Brian. As they chatted, he forgot about the door and strolled into the back room to get to work as soon as they were done talking.
Wendy and Carla were sitting at the same table outside the same bar where they and their two other friends had hatched the evening’s plot. In between their bouts of moaning about not yet being twenty-one years old, Carla tried to dissuade Wendy from entering Coach’s shop after closing hours, but to no avail.
At least that evening they had attracted a couple of young fellows that Carla knew from the community college, and they had sat and chatted and flirted for a while. Flirting simply came naturally for Wendy, and the poor guy who had no chance with her could not seem to take his eyes off her. After all, Wendy was most alluring on this particular evening. Her smile seemed to have a special come hither quality, and the long light brown hair swept across her shoulders in perfection. And if that was not enough to draw a young man like a moth to a flame, the short blue sleeveless party dress with a lace hem that reached just halfway down her thigh would do so. It was almost like a game for Wendy.
It was getting late, just at midnight, and the only businesses still open now were the bars. They talked a little longer, and finally, as it neared 1:00 AM, Carla gave up on any hope of talking Wendy into backing off of her self-imposed challenge. She gave her a quick shoulder hug, then reluctantly walked away, wondering just how much trouble the not-very-logistical Wendy could get herself into.
Wendy took the last sip of her drink, subtly looking around to see if anyone else was nearby. She went back in the bar and paid her tab, then went to the restroom where she splashed some cold water on her face, as she was beginning to feel a sense of logical anxiety.
There was a back door to the bar, and she exited that way so that fewer people could attest to have seen her leaving the establishment. Then she began to walk slowly and quietly down the sand-and-gravel drive that ran behind that stretch of lakeside businesses.
She had been to Coach’s business on a few occasions, but one thing that she did remember was that the windows were low and of the old style. She had a couple of screwdrivers in her purse, a bottle of her father’s wood glue, and thought that she could probably pry one of the windows open so that she could crawl inside and get busy with the adhesive.
What she most remembered about the souvenir shop was the rack of paddles along the back wall. Her joking comments with her friends two nights earlier may have sounded comical and flippant, but she knew how much she had wanted to take one of the paddles from the display and simply run her fingertips across the surface intended to bring a sting to a person’s bottom.
On the two occasions she had set foot in the shop she felt her face turn flush and her abdomen shudder at the very sight of the paddles. The thought of one of them being wielded by a cute man against her bottom gave her chills. For as long as she could remember such thoughts had vexed her, and she never knew when it began or why it had been the case.
On her eighteenth birthday, during her senior year of high school, she was on a date with the captain of the football team when she had gotten hopelessly tongue-tied when unsuccessfully trying to flirtingly suggest that he give her a birthday spanking. She never did get the words out, and when she went to bed that night she cried in embarrassment and disappointment.
Two weeks later she had thought she may be losing her mind when she found herself considering getting caught drinking “accidently on purpose” by Coach. It would mean an automatic referral to Mrs. Copeland. She thought that at least she would find out what an actual spanking with a paddle felt like, and she could transfer those recollections to her late night fantasies involving the young man of her choice on that evening.
But it was the accompanying tradition that made her back away from the idea. Coach would give her his paddle to carry to the woman’s office along with a note asking for several hard whacks, and students in the hallways would see the most popular and attractive girl in school on her way to being spanked. Then in the aftermath she would have to carry it back to Coach’s office while walking gingerly with red-rimmed eyes.
As much as she craved finding out what the sensations would be like, she was not about to bring alcohol onto school grounds. Purposely getting herself paddled by Coach would have been overkill. She may have desired to experience the sting of a good hard spanking, but not quite at that level of intensity.
She walked the remaining thirty yards in silence until she finally arrived at the souvenir shop. She admonished herself to remember to try the easiest possible entrance that would make the least noise.
She looked around several times, then took off her shoes and stuffed them into her purse. Then she sprinted up to the first window, the one farthest back from the beach and most shielded from the moonlight by trees next to the establishment.
She reached to the bottom of the window and lifted, but it was going nowhere. She would have to use the screwdrivers to try to pry that window open. Now the nerves that seemed to activate about an hour too late were making her tremble as she walked toward the side door.
She gently squeezed the doorknob and turned it. She nearly screamed in shock when she so effortlessly pushed the door inward. Now her breathing was rapid and ragged as she slowly stepped into the dark space. She held her breath as she slowly pushed the door closed behind her, leaving her in near total darkness.
She had assumed that at least some light filtered into the shop, enough light at least to allow her to see her way to the back workbench, where the plan was that Coach would find his pieces of wood unwilling to separate from each other in the morning.
As her eyes adjusted she could barely begin to make out the forms of things in the room. She was standing in the room she had been in before, a room with shelves lining the walls with all kinds of wooden novelties to be sold. She turned slowly and recognized a table that always sat in the middle of the room, where Coach would display whatever his featured item of the day was. She took several steps and then leaned slightly, peering at what was on the table. This time it held two racks of wooden coffee mugs.
Her eyes were seized by the dim vision of the rack of paddles. She had to fight the temptation to step over and take one from the display and finally run her hands over it. Perhaps she could abscond with one on her way out, just in case that someday… somehow… some guy… wow! Looking at the paddles made her tremble and feel a quivering in her midsection.
Just as she was about to turn away from the table and make her way behind the counter to where her first work would be done, she was startled by a loud clang of metal falling to the floor. The sound so frightened her that she turned quickly in a panic, then fell onto the display table, sending it onto its side and causing two dozen wooden mugs and their racks to fall to the tile floor with a loud clatter.
In her panic she struggled to stand up but fell down again after tripping over one of the mugs. And just when she had regained her footing and pulled herself to stand up by holding onto the sales counter, the dim, rarely-used overhead light was flipped on. And there, standing in the doorway in the back of the room that she had not noticed upon entering, loomed the imposing presence of Coach.
Wendy tried to speak but could only stutter in her fright. The silent Coach pulled the door behind him partway closed, then walked slowly to try to comprehend the strange scene in front of him. He placed his hands on his hips, tilted his head, raised his eyebrows, and stared at Wendy, waiting for her to explain what was going on.
He took a step closer to her, and she tried to take a step back but once again slipped over a mug and fell to the floor, quickly recovering but her face flushed red from embarrassment as she tugged down the hem of the brief dress that had ridden up nearly to her hips during her fall. It was not a series of mishaps to suffer when wearing such a short dress.
“Miss Wendy Howard. Still haven’t given up on the mischief, have you?” Coach took another step toward her. “Well? I can’t wait to hear your explanation. Funny… I feel like I have traveled back in time a few years.”
Wendy took another attempt at speaking, but only high-pitched wheezes emerged at first. And she closed her eyes and took a couple of deep breaths and began again. “Coach… I … it was… it was just a prank… a joke.” She looked at his unyielding expression, and tears of embarrassment and anxiety began to run down her cheeks. “Coach… I’m sorry.” She gestured at the mess that surrounded her. “I’ll pay for all the damages.”
Coach’s face was also red, but not from embarrassment. “Wendy Howard… of all people for me to find under these will circumstances. Oh, you will indeed pay for all this… one way or another.”
He gestured to the floor and barked at her sharply. “Pick up those mugs and those racks and put them on the counter… now!” Wendy may have graduated from Manning Lake High School two years ago, but Coach was always for students the symbolic authority figure there to the same degree as any principal or superintendent who passed through the school district. Of course, Wendy also realized that when you have broken into someone’s property, that person has every right to bark commands.
He reached down and picked up the table that she had knocked over, then moved it to the side of the room so that Wendy could more easily pick up all the mugs. As she did so, her face felt so hot she thought it may burst into flames.
He watched her with steely eyes until all the mugs and both racks were placed on the sales counter. In her anxiety, as Wendy was placing the last batch on the counter, she dropped several, and had to get down and pick them up once again.
She was finally finished, then turned to see Coach sitting on the display table she had knocked over, his arms crossed as he calmly waited for her to explain. “You know… h-h-how every… y-y-year, I mean, each year there’s a prank on a business… I mean I-I…”
Coach spoke slowly in his baritone voice. “Of course I know all about that. And just what was it that you were going to do?”
She looked around and found her purse on the floor, kicked to the side of the room in confusion. She walked over to it, picked it up, and pulled out the bottle of wood glue and held it up in front of her. “I was going to….”
She dropped the bottle of glue when Coach snarled at her. “Never mind.”
He stared at her in silence for a moment, then he seemed to have decided something, and his expression softened. “I just know that wood glue in a store such as this cannot bring about any good deeds. And we will leave it at that.” Wendy saw that he was smiling, and at that point she was most frightened she had been since the light had been turned on.
He stood and placed his hands into his jeans pockets and revealed yet another grin that seemed out of character for the man, especially under the circumstances. “So, Miss Howard… here we are. And I have a question to be answered. By you! I need for you to tell me if your little pranks that you and your friends think are so cute… I need to know if they usually include a criminal act of breaking and entering?”
Wendy gulped loudly as the meaning of his choice of words settled in. She shook her head slowly with her eyes closed. “No, Coach… I mean… Coach, sir.”
He crossed his arms again, then resumed speaking softly in a manner that rattled her. “I know that you always thought that you were just a little too clever. All through school you seemed to have something up your sleeve.” He gestured toward the dress. “I mean, when you were wearing sleeves.”
He sighed deeply. “This prank business stops right here and right now, Wendy. People who have businesses have enough problems. When you keep a businessperson from making money because they have to stop and fix things because of some childish stunt, you’re stealing money from them.” He gestured toward the room around them. “Of course, then we have the critical matter of breaking into a business after hours when the lights were already off…”
He took another deep sigh. “So, where is your senator father right now? He’s not going to be very happy when it’s in our little newspaper that his daughter spent the night in jail.”
Wendy began to feel as if she were going to hyperventilate. “Coach… I said I would pay for the damage. We all know each other here ….”
He waved away her protest. “And that makes it all the worse. I hope you understand what I’m saying. Do you?”
Wendy closed her eyes, put her hands behind her back and looked at the floor. “Yeah… I do.” She looked up and tears were once again running down her face. “But… jail… and the police… I don’t want to be arrested. Please, Coach… Coach… sir .”
Coach rubbed his temples in frustration. “Wendy, one thing I don’t have a lot of patience for these days is a coddled youngster—even if she is twenty years old, such as you likely are by now—not being willing to accept responsibility.”
Now it was Coach who closed his eyes and shook his head in weariness. But then suddenly his eyes opened wide and he nodded his head slowly as a self-satisfied grin appeared upon his face “You know my boys… of course they are all fine grown men now. But I had to raise them alone, and they were wild and headstrong at times. But… I kept order in our home… pretty much the same way I helped keep order at school.” Wendy felt her blood turn cold and her abdomen resume its quivering at the reference and waited for him to continue
He patted the table next to where he rested. “Have a seat, Wendy.” She walked toward where Coach sat on the table, warily approaching with tiny steps, and then hopped up on it to sit next to him.
“Wendy, I’ve never really been able to understand you. You were always one of the brightest students, and you seemed to be a part of every school activity. But it seemed that you were always covering your tracks after taking part in some little misbehavior of one type or another. And I have to say, it makes me sad to see that you have not gotten past that.
“A young woman such as yourself has so much to offer society. And it’s not lost on me and most of us who live in Manning Lake just how much you do care about others. No other young person who lives here does so much to help the kids.
“It’s just rather perplexing that someone such as yourself who does so many things for other people, can turn around and take part in some silly act of vandalism that causes a person so much trouble and even costs them money. Can you explain that to me?”
Wendy sat speechless for a moment, and had to force her words. “Sometimes my tendency to enjoy pulling a stunt and getting away with something just for kicks overrides my common sense. I guess I never really thought about how much something like this can disrupt someone’s time and efforts.” She looked down and away from his gaze. “I’m sorry, Coach.”
Coach shook his head. “Wendy, even a basically good person such as yourself eventually has to face paying the price for irresponsibility. The good things that you do mean a lot, but doing good things should be assumed to be a part of life. It doesn’t give you a pass to throw your good judgment out the window on an impulse and cause problems for other people. So, I’m not going to let you off the hook for this.”
Wendy squeezed her eyes shut, envisioning herself in handcuffs, being put in the back of a police cruiser. She turned to look at Coach, her lower lip trembling in fear.
He peered at her through narrowed eyes, and the expression on his face made Wendy’s knees grow weak. “I’ll leave it up to you, Wendy. I can call the police and have you arrested, or I will let you walk out of here…that is, after you bend over and take a long, hard lickin’ with one of those paddles back there on the rack… a lickin’ the likes of which I never gave to one of my big and strong sons.”
Wendy sat for a moment with her mouth hanging open and her hands reflexively covering her bottom. She looked like a statue, unable to move. Two evenings before she had made jokes about relishing being paddled by a handsome young administrator, not someone like the older and imposing Coach. After all, the man had been synonymous with the phrase “corporal punishment” in the community for three decades. Karma was caving in on her from all directions, but especially from behind.
Coach stood up from the table, stepped in front of her, and placed his hands on his hips. “Pretty simple process, Wendy. Because of that little wisp of a dress that you are wearing, I will not do this exactly the way it was in school. The ones that I paddled at the school always had to bend over and touch their toes so they would remember it for a while when they tried to sit down. You can just lean across this table, and you stay in place and take it until I think we’re done. No calls to the police… no calls to the senator or your mother. But it’s your choice to make. We can deal with this with a phone call to the police or with one of those paddles back there.”
Tears were beginning to roll down her cheeks. Fate and irony were having their way with her at the moment. “I can’t have my parents knowing about this.” She looked down at the floor. “Coach…” She gestured down toward her dress. “You know, I really can’t bend over very far wearing this.”
She was surprised to see the man’s face turned pink. “We’ll make do.” She did not like the mischievous gleam in his eyes as he turned away and walked over to one particular display rack. “Now, let’s see… I have the one about the deer and the bear behind…” He glanced at her to see that her face was turning red. “I don’t think that will apply in this case, as much as you would deserve that.” His follow-up comment only embarrassed her further.
He motioned to her to come to where he was standing, and she reluctantly slid off the table and approached the rack of paddles and stood next to the large man. He was obviously intent upon increasing her level of anxiety prior to setting her tail ablaze, Wendy felt her face burning in embarrassment again. He made a production out of looking over the assortment on the rack and pointing to them as he went. “Board of Education… naw… I retired from that.” Wendy put her fingertips over her eyes and shook her head in absolute humiliation.
It was nothing but surreal to her that she and Coach were joined in the process of selecting a paddle that was actually going to be used to spank her with, but not the type of spanking she had fantasized about. This was Coach! Ouch!
“Oh, here’s a good one, Wendy. It says ‘Heat in the Seat.’ Rather catchy, isn’t it?”
She closed her eyes and chewed on her lower lip before muttering, “Cute… very cute.” She was suddenly having difficulty breathing.
He pointed to another version. “Rump Roaster. What do you think of that one, Wendy?”
She closed her eyes and exhaled a big breath. “I am almost overcome by how witty and imaginative that one is.”
She was so tense that he startled her when he pulled one from the rack and held it out in front of his chest so she could see it. “Now I think we have the right one, Wendy.” He pointed his finger down toward the large letters. “This is the one for me to use on you: Fanny Whacker. Just perfect, don’t you think?”
Wendy cleared her throat as her anxiety began to rise with the paddle having been chosen after his elaborate effort to raise her fear level, something that he had definitely been successful in doing. “Charming… quite charming.”
He began walking toward the table that had been moved aside, and Wendy dutifully followed behind him. He held the paddle up in front of her once again. “You may want to get your parents one of these for your next birthday in case they observe that tradition. For that matter, when the day comes that you get married, I’m going to give one of these to your new husband. He would likely have need of it from time to time.”
If Wendy could have melted into the floor, she would have.
Coach pointed toward the table. “Have any questions before we get started? I may be out of practice, but I promise to do my best. I’m sure my aim is still spot-on, so to say.”
Wendy took a deep breath. “Thanks, Coach. That’s very reassuring to hear you say that.” She closed her eyes and shook her head slowly. “I wouldn’t know what to ask. I’ve never been whacked with a paddle before. I’ve never even been spanked at all.”
Coach laughed and shook his head. “Gee… I never would have guessed that.”
Wendy closed her eyes and shook her head. “I get your point, Coach.”
Coach reached into a hip pocket and pulled out a neatly folded handkerchief and handed it to her. “You can count on needing this. Nobody has ever walked away from one of my paddlings without a least a couple of tears rolling down the cheeks. Then I think we are ready to get started…over the table as far as you feel comfortable with in that dress.”
Wendy took three slow steps toward the table and kicked off her high heeled shoes, then turned to face Coach. “Once again, I’m so sorry.”
He surprised her by placing his hand on her shoulder. “I appreciate your saying that. But there’s one more thing that I have to say to you, something that you have needed to hear from someone for a long time.”
Wendy nervously bit her lower lip. “What’s that, Coach?”
The large man displayed an unnerving smile. “Bend over, Wendy.” Suddenly her abdomen and everything lower dissolved into flutters.
She felt that she had to be in the midst of a bad dream that was going to end just as the paddle was about to land for the first time. But when she slowly and cautiously leaned over the table until she felt the lacey hem of her short dress tickling the tops of her thighs, Coach began to shuffle the paddle back and forth across her bottom as he took aim, and she realized that it was definitely not a dream. Her heart was racing, and her quivering stomach felt as if it were in her throat.
She could no longer feel the paddle, and she held her breath and clenched her teeth. Certainly, it would not really hurt that bad… just as the paddle landed across the lower half of her bottom with a fiery WHAM. Fanny Whacker had arrived with a flaming vengeance, providing a burning sting that she could never have imagined. Her eyes flipped open wide, and her jaw dropped. Knowing that there was much more to come, she was nearly overwhelmed by panic, just as, WHAM! This was more than she could possibly take.
Before she could recover the breath that had seemed to have been knocked out of her lungs by the impact lower and behind them, another CRACK brought another wave of searing pain. The tears of embarrassment that had already formed in her eyes were now joined by those generated by the breathtaking sting. That had to be the last one. She could not bear another.
She whimpered in anxiety just before the paddle collided with her backside a fourth time, but this time with even more force and velocity. Her eyes popped open and she squealed and stood upright. But as Coach directed her to get back into position, she simply stared ahead and muttered, “Just a minute.” She began to walk around the table and toward the partly open door from which he had emerged and flipped on the light. Coach at first watched her daring insolence in shock and silence before he called to her sharply. “Wendy… we are not done yet.”
He finally sprinted back to stop her, but before he could prevent her from doing so, she had swung open the door to that back room the rest of the way and stepped inside. As an agitated Coach stood by, the alluring young woman in the little blue party dress wandered through the bicycles in various stages of repair, rubbing her bottom and sniffling as she did so.
She turned slowly to face Coach, her expression one of amazement. “You’re the Bike Angel. Well, I’ll be….”
Coach tucked the paddle under his arm as he leaned against the doorframe before beginning to speak in a gruff voice. “Nobody is supposed to know. Understand?”
Wendy bit down on her lower lip and nodded her head in agreement as she continued to rub her sizzling backside, knowing that Coach was far from done with applying that paddle to it. “You are the one who gets these bikes fixed up to give them to the poor kids in town?”
Coach exhaled a deep breath. “I have friends in nearby towns who call me. I go and get them late at night or they bring them to me so nobody sees what I’m doing. Every once in a while I’ll even find a new bike or two on sale at some store out of town, or order them online and get them inside before anyone can see the boxes.”
He stepped forward and glared down at her. “I don’t want any credit. I just want kids to have bikes.”
The words made Wendy begin to tremble, and she began to cry harder. “Coach… I don’t know what to say… except… I’m so sorry.” She continued to rub where it felt as if hundreds of bees were stinging her, and her sniffling continued. “I just think that’s the sweetest thing to do, Coach.”
Coach placed his hands in his pockets, the paddle still tucked against his side. When he began to speak Wendy was shocked to hear that his voice was trembling. “When I was a kid in Arkansas we lived in this little crossroad of a town. There were only about a dozen kids who lived there, and with nothing good and wholesome to do. Every Saturday the kids went to the schoolyard and had bike races.
“My father left when I was born, and my mother had nothing, living on public aid. I wanted a bike more than anything…” His voice trailed off, and he went silent. He laughed, but it did not sound like a laugh from a pleasant memory. “As a matter of fact, I never did get a bike until I was well into high school. One of our neighbors had an old bike left behind from their son who went into the service. He wanted five dollars for it, but I didn’t even have that. So, I mowed his yard for a month in exchange for that bike, and I was glad to have it, because there was no way we could afford to have a car. In fact, I went right into the Army as soon as I graduated, then I was able to go on to college.
“Some of the disadvantaged kids in and around Manning Lake come from families where there has just been some very bad luck. And some of them have parents who made poor choices.”
He pointed to a tall work stool. “I want you to sit down and listen to what I have to say, Wendy.” Wendy nodded in agreement and gingerly sat down on the stool.
Coach handed Wendy the paddle. “You hold this while we talk.” He crossed his arms and leaned against the door frame. “Wendy, I know that you appreciate the parents who raised you. I’ve known both of them for a long time, and they are very good and decent people. I would venture to say, however, that you have been spoiled rotten.”
Tears were streaming down Wendy’s cheeks again, but it had nothing to do with the still-present sizzling buzz across her bottom or the fear of more to come. “I get it.”
Coach pointed toward the paddle she was holding as if it were a snake. “Hurts getting smacked with that, doesn’t it?”
Wendy let out a soft whistle. “Does it ever.”
Coach chuckled softly. “To be very honest with you, Wendy… after what I caught you trying to do tonight, I wish I could use the paddle I always used at school. It would hurt a lot more.” Wendy’s eyes grew large as she reached back to her bottom.
“You see, Wendy… I always wanted young people to grow up with a sense of responsibility. I can always hope that I played a role in keeping them on the straight and narrow path by understanding that irresponsible and reckless behavior was harmful to them and everyone around them. So, this evening I guess that we are in the process of providing you with a little remedial motivation for you to take the less privileged world around you a little more seriously. It’s how I tried to raise my sons, as did their mother until she passed.”
Coach looked away for a moment, then gestured around the room full of partially-assembled bicycles. “I guess that in a way I do it for my boys’ mother. She was that way. She always wanted to help kids who needed something.” Coach cleared his throat loudly. “The school district here doesn’t pay high salaries, so my pension is modest. This business of mine allows me to have a little extra to do special things with.”
His expression suddenly hardened. “You see, Wendy, when a person owns a business, it can have a lot of meanings. It may not just be a place to work and make money. In some cases a business can become a part of the family… a part of who you are”
He took the paddle from Wendy and slapped it across his open hand, making Wendy jump and once again reach back to cover her bottom., Coach then stepped closer. “A person’s place of business is part of their being… not to be violated.”
He ran his fingertip across the inscription in large red letters. “Fanny Whacker here still has some serious fanny to whack. And it won’t be over quickly.”
Coach held the paddle in front of her and looked at her through narrowed eyes. “Wendy, I need to be very honest with you… I’m going to enjoy doing the rest of this. I hope that you understand.”
She closed her eyes for a moment and winced. “And I’ll be honest with you, Coach… I would, too, if I were you.” Coach responded by simply just pointing through the door.
She got up from the stool and backpedaled slowly. “On my way back to the table right now… sir… Coach… Coach, sir.”
Wendy walked slowly back in front of the table and waited for him to resume his place next to her. She turned slowly to look at him. “Really, really sorry.” She continued to lean forward until once again she could feel the hem of the dress at the top of her thighs. She could still feel the heat being generated by the first four whacks she had received minutes earlier. She knew that she was in serious trouble.
She jumped from being startled when she felt his hand come to rest on her left shoulder. “Tell me, Wendy… do you ever eat breakfast standing up?”
She looked straight ahead and her pulse began to race. “Not usually… Coach… sir.”
He leaned closer and nearly whispered. “I’ll bet that you will tomorrow.” Coach moved away, and then tapped the paddle against its target a couple of times. He then drew it back in a wide arc and returned it with sufficient enthusiasm to make Wendy squeal.
She lowered her head and exhaled deeply. “Perhaps… lunch… as well.”
Seconds later a duplicate swat was applied. She shook her head slowly. ”Oh… my… gosh!” Another swat landed with a CRACK. She tried to slow down her breathing. “Ooh, ooh… maybe dinner, too.” CRACK!
She took a deep breath and then began to sob freely. “All… all… those bikes… all those kids… oh… what the hell… after all, I really am sorry.” In an instant she had stood up and taken three steps away from the table. “Coach… I can think of one thing to do to convince you how truly sorry I am.” She closed her eyes and began to bend down until her fingertips were touching her toes, trying not to imagine the scene of the wide lacy band that was the hem of her dress sliding up over her waist and onto the small of her back.
Now the paddle was being glided back and forth across the dark blue satin panties. It left, then seconds later returned and slammed painfully across both cheeks, and the tears were rolling down her face.
She felt that it was taking all of her willpower to not stand it up and run screaming away from the scene. Each flaming sting across her bottom was beyond anything she could have imagined, after never having experienced a serious swat across her backside, no matter how many times she may have had it coming.
Now every eight to ten seconds he would whack her again, until the paddle had scorched her bottom for the twentieth and final time. And when she realized that it was over, she did not know if she was more amazed at how much pain she had absorbed or that she had so stoically accepted it.
She heard a low voice rumble. “You are finished, Miss Howard.” Feeling relieved but still full of self-recrimination for her act, Wendy slowly rose stiffly, her leg muscles burning from her struggle to stay in position. She was sobbing and dabbing at her eyes with Coach’s handkerchief and gingerly rubbing her backside. “I certainly am.”
That was when there was the sound of a knuckle rapping at the side door through which Wendy had clandestinely entered. Coach was there in three steps, and when he pulled the door open he and his son wrapped their arms around each other as Wendy stood there, mortified at the turn of events.
Brian walked in with a duffel bag and a suitcase, then stopped and froze in his tracks at the vision of the beautiful girl in the little dress wiping tears from her blotched face and unable to not reach back to rub the extensive and flaming wounded patch.
Brian looked at his father, then to Wendy, back and forth several times. Then he finally noticed the paddle lying on the table, and his eyes grew large and round as he struggled to keep from bursting into laughter.
His father placed his hand on his shoulder. “Seems that we had a mischief-maker going a little too far tonight.” He leaned down and further teased Wendy by whispering in his son’s ear loud enough that she could hear. “Breaking and entering. She didn’t want me to call the police or her father, but she did take a lickin’ like a trooper… a lickin’ that would have had you or your brothers howling for it to end.”
To Wendy’s shock, the large man walked over to her and put his arm around her shoulders and gave her an encouraging squeeze. “But I think that she’s kind of special in her own way. She took the licks she had coming and didn’t complain at all about it. I think that deep down inside she’s probably made from something pretty good.”
Even Brian’s face was turning pink. “Wendy… I know my father, and I could bet that you never had a butt-whippin’ like the one he just likely gave you.”
Wendy blew out a breath and theatrically rubbed her bottom with a flourish. “Actually, this was the first time in my life I had ever been spanked at all.”
Coach stepped toward her and placed his hands on his hips. “Of course, I would imagine this is the first time you have ever been caught breaking into a closed business to commit vandalism.”
She closed her eyes, bit down on her lip and nodded in agreement. “And I will never do anything like that again.”
Coach leaned closer and looked her directly in the eyes. “And I did not take it easy on you, did I, Miss Wendy?”
Wendy could not conceal a smile that fought its way out against her wishes. There was something about what had just happened and the words he had said that was strangely comforting to her in a way that she found confusing. “No, sir, Coach. I feel totally and thoroughly paddled.”
It was as if something missing in her life had just been found and presented to her on a golden platter at the most awkward moment of her life. And there she was in the aftermath, in the presence of Brian Crawford, her adolescent crush before she had come to loathe him. Nonetheless, the condition of her bottom, combined with the presence of the paddle and Brian, made her begin to feel a definite wave of arousal.
Coach walked over to Brian and gave him another hug. Wendy bent down gingerly, still wiping tears, and picked up her purse. “Um, Coach. I guess that I can go now?”
Suddenly, Brian laughed heartily. “Wait, Wendy! Coach may not be finished paddling you.”
Coach began to laugh. “Son, I think Wendy has had enough.” Several feet away a young woman stood with the reddest face the two men had ever seen began to step toward the door.
Coach put his hand up in the air to stop her from leaving. “Let’s all sit down and have a cold can of something to drink to celebrate Brian’s homecoming.” He pulled a chair from around the back of the sales counter, then reached inside the room full of bikes and retrieved two more folding chairs that he placed next to the table across which Wendy had rested as she received the first part of her paddling. Wendy simply watched in disbelief the transition from disciplinarian to gracious host.
He got cans of soda from a small refrigerator behind the counter, placed them on the table, and gestured for all them to sit down. Wendy’s tear-stained face turned red once again. “I can’t sit down at all.” She could almost feel Brian’s gaze fixed upon her, and she had never in her life felt so self-conscious and embarrassed. She was assuming correctly that he had to be imagining the appearance of her bottom. “Thanks, but I think that for now I’m going to go home, and after a very uncomfortable ten minutes on the car seat, I’ll just curl up in a fetal position in the corner of my bedroom and whimper for a while.”
Coach stood and gently placed his hands on her shoulders. “I am impressed that you still have a sense of humor after that.”
Brian stood as well. “But, now, just what caused all of this to…?” Suddenly, a sly grin appeared on his face. “Wendy… I could meet you at lunch tomorrow at the Cabana Café and then you can tell me what this was all about. We could even stand at the counter, so you wouldn’t have to sit down.” Wendy’s face turned another darker shade of red.
“Brian… I don’t know what to say. What happened with my cousin LeeAnn…”
Brian held his hands out as if pleading. “Wendy, I would like to tell you my side of the story. How about I take you out to lunch or something?”
Wendy hesitated for a moment as she considered, her mind racing so that she did not even realize that she was once again absentmindedly rubbing her stinging backside. She nodded and permitted a subtle smile to crease her face. “I think I’m going to have to need some time to decide about that.”
Brian let out a deep breath and nodded slowly with his hands on his hips. “I would just like for you to give me a chance.”
“I suppose I’ll be considering that tonight as I try to go to sleep… while lying on my stomach.” She glanced at Coach with an arched eyebrow.
Brian’s expression was one of resignation. “Okay, think about it. I know that I’ll be seeing you around the beach.”
She spun around. “Lunch would be fine.”
Wendy waved silently to the two men and gingerly walked out the door through which she had entered.
The drive home was as uncomfortable as Wendy assumed it would be. Each little movement and the slightest bump in the road caused her roasted bottom to chafe, even though she was wearing silky and lightweight clothing. When she got inside the house she went straight to her bedroom and took off all of her clothing. She went into her bathroom and looked in her full-length mirror, only to see that her bottom cheeks were both nearly crimson, and as she played out the detailed memories of how it had gotten that way her face turned a darker shade of pink by the moment.
She may have not curled up on the floor in the corner of her bedroom, but she did so beneath the sheets of her bed. She began to cry once again in both the humiliation of being paddled for actual punishment at age twenty and because it was other than as part of some romantic foreplay.
Most of all she was feeling much disappointment in herself for engaging in childish act of mischief that had brought it all about. All that she could think of was that she had done wrong to someone who was secretly devoting his time and resources to helping some of the same disadvantaged children that had become so dear to her heart.
Her emotions began to swell, and soon she was sobbing harder than at any time when Coach was cracking the paddle across her bottom. She promised herself that she was going to do something to help the man in his efforts. After all, her parents had made no demands of her that she take a job over the summer break from college. She would certainly have the time to do a few things to help out the Bike Angel, and the generous bank account provided to her by her parents would see to it that she had the means to do so.
After a while her sobbing turned to quiet snuffling as she pulled tissues from a box on her bedside table and blew her nose and wiped her face several times. Her feelings about the most unusual events of that evening were transitioning from extreme mortification to acceptance. She certainly did not blame Coach for offering her such an alternative to being arrested.
Even in the darkness she was aware that she was straining to not smile in the aftermath. But she felt a chill up and down her spine when she thought of the moment when Brian had realized that his father had just used one of his souvenir paddles to give her a spanking she could never have imagined in her most vivid imagination.
The entire evening had been unreal, from the time that she first stepped up to the darkened building until she left with her bottom on fire. Nonetheless, with each passing minute she realized more clearly that Coach must have been a closet psychologist.
As she settled down and her memory came into focus, she had admitted to herself that the first dozen or so whacks of the paddle had been the most ferocious, although the rest had stung like fire. Half of her paddling had been more frightening than painful. The problem was, the more painful half was unbelievably… painful… and frightening.
She closed her eyes and sighed deeply, wondering how long it would take for her to ever fall asleep on this night. But that was when she found herself once again rubbing the still-quite-warm bottom, only to find that she was simultaneously replaying the scene where Brian had walked into the room and realized what had just taken place.
It was when her mind juxtaposed the memory of the paddle’s sizzle with the image of that hunk of a young man that her hand stopped the soothing motions. Several seconds later her eyes were shut once again, the fingertips moving more slowly and deliberately as she had first fantasized Brian being present to watch her punishment, and then her imagery morphing into Brian being the one administering the paddling.
She suddenly flipped over onto her back and interlaced her fingers and rested her hands behind her head. “Where did that come from?” As she felt arousal building, she pulled her covers up to her neck, as if fearing that someone would see her and somehow detect her thoughts. There was no question in her mind what activity she was yearning to engage in while she indulged her fantasy while her bottom was still sore and hot, but the sudden turn of events made the thought of it frightening for some reason.
That was not the case when she woke in the middle of the night and went into the bathroom. She could not help but lower her pajama bottoms and take another glance at her backside in the mirror.
She was surprised at how red her cheeks still were, and as she reached back and ran her fingertips across the, they were still warm to the touch and the soreness remained significant. She walked toward her bed, and just as she was about to kneel upon it she felt a cold chill and a twinge of excitement throughout her body.
She placed her fingertips in both hands across her eyes and shook her head and sighed deeply, almost laughing out loud at herself. Then she reached down and lowered her panties and let them fall to the floor, then lay across the edge of the bed. She stretched out her right arm and then brought her right hand to her bottom with a loud slap, then did the same with her left.
She felt silly and embarrassed at what she was doing, but she knew that her parents would not hear her at the other end of the house, and under no circumstances would they walk in on her without knocking. She closed her eyes and continued to attempt to intensify the residual soreness, all the while imagining that it was Brian providing the sensations.
Finally she slipped beneath the covers and allowed her own fingertips to respond to the building arousal she was feeling. After a couple of minutes, she cried out in her climax, her eyes closed but seeing the vision of Brian standing several feet away from her as she cried and rubbed her freshly paddled bottom.
Wendy was amazed that she actually slept for several hours, although she did wake before 5:00 AM. Nonetheless, upon waking she felt a surge of panic as her mind cleared and she realized that she was to meet Brian for lunch. She felt her heart racing and her face turning warm as she tossed off the covers and headed into the shower. The stark memory of what she had done during the night caused her face to turn pink and her pulse to race.
She could not help but first turn her back once again to the mirror, and she had mixed emotions and saw that there was still a definite red blush to her bottom cheeks. She winced in self-consciousness as she recalled her own antics of her quest to keep them that way a little while longer. Now the thought of encountering Brian made her cringe with embarrassment.
She got ready quickly, putting on a short and sleeveless little white dress with a very low neckline, then microwaved a frozen breakfast sandwich before opening the drawer and finding the keys to her parents’ large SUV. As soon as she got in she found that her bottom was still quite tender, but she found an inexplicable amusement and even comfort in the sensation. She pulled out of the driveway and headed for the highway that would take her to Payten Bay, where she could shop at a large discount department store without the likelihood of her encountering any friends.
Her shopping there did not take long; she paid for the three bicycles with cash out of what she realized was likely an unnecessary concern that the true identity of the Manning Lake Bike Angel could be revealed by her purchase. And to complicate her mood, thinking about the bikes made her think about the surreal events that took place in the souvenir shop and her own mischievous behavior in the seclusion of her bedroom.
She felt awkward and restless as she neared Manning Lake and turned onto the road where Coach still resided and had raised his sons. She was not seeking credit for helping out, but she did want Coach to know that she had taken yet another step to apologize for what she had done.
She also knew that there was some possibility that she would encounter Brian earlier than they had planned on meeting, that even if no one was home she knew that she could place the bikes behind their garage and safely out of sight. But when she pulled in the driveway Brian was in the process of washing a blue SUV, and she was mesmerized as she pulled up near him, dressed only in a pair of cutoff jeans. He certainly had her attention.
He was just finishing drying the car he had bought that morning as she strolled up to him slowly and cautiously. He looked at her and grinned. “I know… I know you couldn’t wait to see me again.”
She put her hands on her hips and tilted her head. “Actually, I have some bicycles to drop off to your father.”
He pursed his lips and nodded his head, indicating his approval. “Let me get them for you.” He stepped toward the garage and opened a small door and reached in and pressed a button, then the large garage door opened up. Wendy had already opened the back door of her family SUV, and she was content to stand back and watch the muscular former soldier lift each of them effortlessly and take them into the garage. “My father is really going to appreciate this. And I don’t think that he’s going to be expecting this, especially after everything that happened last evening. I mean… I should say, what I’m assuming took place last evening.”
Wendy felt her face turning warm. “I assumed he would’ve told you all about it after I left. He certainly enjoyed it, and had every right to.”
Brian walked closer with a sly grin. “I agree with all that you just said, He told me that if you wanted to tell me all about it, that would be up to you. Of course, I’m just dying to hear the whole story in vivid detail. I’m certain that hearing about it from your perspective would be quite fascinating.”
Wendy crossed her arms defiantly. “I don’t know, Brian… I’m having second thoughts. I don’t know if there’s anything that you could say that would make me feel differently about seeing you, considering what happened between you and my cousin. Maybe lunch with you is not a good idea.”
“The worst that can happen is that you won’t believe me. And if that’s the case I won’t bother you again.”
Wendy could only imagine how pink her face had turned. “I’ll make a deal with you: if I do decide to go out with you—and maybe I will, and maybe I won’t—I’ll tell you the whole embarrassing and humiliating story if you will tell me what really happened between you and my cousin LeeAnn.”
He nodded and winked. “It’s a deal. But something tells me that I would find your story much more… let’s say, interesting and entertaining… than what I have to tell you.”
Wendy sighed and nodded as she again felt her face flush. “Maybe someday.”
Brian walked her to her car and opened the door for her. “For real, Wendy… I would be a very happy guy if sometime I could spend some time with you. Give it a little bit of time, and maybe the second thoughts you refer to will go away.”
Wendy appeared to begin to say something, but then gave him a quick wave, closed the door, and drove away.
Several uneventful days passed since Wendy had spent an evening in the souvenir shop that she would never forget and had subsequently encountered the returned soldier who had made her sigh with affection during her school days. An unusual weather pattern had brought several days of rain to the Manning Lake region, and while Wendy’s gal pals had jobs to keep them busy during the days, she lounged around her family home reading and watching movies. Nonetheless, the recent events have left her emotionally rattled. She was still finding it hard to wrap her brain around the fact that at her age she had gotten the daylights paddled out of her and come face-to-face with her old crush under such circumstances.
Most of all, she was having a hard time reconciling with reality that as a young adult woman she had been the perpetrator of such a juvenile attempt at a prank. But it also bothered her that her intention had gone far beyond being a harmless prank—it would have been outright breaking and entering and vandalism. As Coach had made clear to her before he set her bottom aflame, her act would have been a theft of a person’s time and property, a violation of a very personal endeavor. She closed the book she was reading and tossed it aside, then walked outside and got into her car.
She felt jittery and embarrassed as she pulled into a parking space along the gravel street that ran behind the beach shops. As she walked around to the entrance to Coach’s souvenir store, she did not know how she would be received. But she walked inside to find that Coach was at the cash register checking out a customer, and when he looked up and saw Wendy he did so with a smile that unnerved her. He was obviously pleased to see her, but that confused her.
He thanked the customers who left with a bag of various souvenirs, and Wendy slowly approached the counter and looked up at him with a contrite expression. “Sell any paddles in the last few days? They work remarkably well.”
Coach laughed, and she was surprised to see his own face flush. “A couple. Of course, nobody else has tried them out right here in the store.”
Before she could even begin to say anything, a wide smile appeared on his face. “I can’t thank you enough for those bikes. But you didn’t have to do that. But since you did, I can tell you that they have already been given to some very needy kids. I want you to know, you made some children very happy.”
Wendy began to tear up. “Well, Coach… I just wanted to stop by to apologize once again.”
Coach peered at her with an arched eyebrow. “Oh, I think it’s safe to say that you were definitely and sufficiently penalized for what you tried to do.”
Wendy’s face turned beet-red as her attention was seized by the sight of the display of the souvenir paddles. “I don’t know quite how to say this, Coach. But I have to say that I…” She began to stammer and then finally forced the words out. “I can’t thank you enough for that spanking you gave me. My parents never did that, and we all know that there were times in school when I should’ve had a paddle put to good use on me. I just want you to know, I deserved every smack you gave me. I can’t put into words how grateful I am to you for doing that.”
Coach looked at her in silence for a moment. “Wendy, until the last few days I don’t think I ever realized what a special person you really are. I just want you to know that you are always welcome here. Everything that happened is done and over with.” He looked around as if someone may have been listening, then he leaned closer and lowered his voice. “As Brian’s father, I’m going way out of bounds saying this: I just hope that you will give him a chance. That’s all I’m going to say.”
Wendy chewed on her lower lip for a moment. “After the events of the past few days, who am I to question your judgment, Coach? I just may do that.”
Two days later, on a sunny Saturday morning, Wendy was driving her parents’ SUV, heading for Peyton Bay where her favorite clothing store was located. Just as she was reaching the outskirts of the small resort town, her attention became fixated by the bicycles on display in the driveway were a family was holding a garage sale. She was delighted to find that there were three bikes, all in excellent condition and in varying sizes, so she bought them right away and the man of the house loaded them into the back of the SUV. She felt buoyed by knowing that she was going to be able to contribute to Coach’s good works once again. She glanced at her watch and saw that she was going to be arriving at her favorite store just as it opened.
She browsed for an hour and bought several items, then headed back toward Manning Lake. She decided that she would go ahead and drop the bikes off at Coach’s home before texting any of her friends to see what they were doing. But as she pulled into the driveway, she encountered the not-unpleasant scenario of Brian washing what must been his own car, a three-year blue SUV. She did not mind at all that he was again dressed in just a pair of cutoff jeans.
She noticed that something else was now parked in the driveway. He now had a fishing boat to use in the lake.
He walked up to greet her as she got out of her car. “I have three bikes for your father.”
She opened the back of the SUV and watched with much interest as he lifted them one by one from the back and took them into the garage. She tried not to stare at his physique, but she could not deny that she was attracted to this fine specimen.
Brian returned from the garage that she was closing the back door of the vehicle. The sheepish grin on his face made her feel nervous, “I guess it can’t hurt for me to ask, now can it? Any change of heart?”
Her face turned pink and she sucked on her lower lip for a moment. “I think so. If I recall, we each have a story to tell the other.”
He breathed in a deep sigh of relief and glanced at his watch. “Lunch, okay?” Wendy simply nodded in response.
He gestured with a sideways nod of his head. “Come on in while I catch a shower and then we can leave for the beach.”
Wendy had been to the home years earlier to pick up some materials that Coach was distributing for a school fundraiser. She strolled around nonchalantly while Brian hustled around gathering the things he would need to take into the bathroom. He finally disappeared to the door, then opened it and stuck his head out. “I’ll leave the door just slightly ajar, so we can talk while I’m getting ready.”
He could not see the smirk of a combination of irritation and interest that was suddenly upon Wendy’s face. Nonetheless, she leaned against the door jam so that he could ask her some questions about what had been going on in his hometown recently, and she found herself feeling more than a little flustered when she heard the sound of the shower, knowing that he was totally undressed while talking to her. He got ready rather quickly, then called to her that it was okay for her to step inside. When she did, he was just pulling on a T-shirt to go along with yet another pair of cutoff jeans. She tried not to display too much obvious interest and looked away as he slipped on a pair of sandals.
They walked back outside, and he pointed toward the vehicle she had driven. “How about we both drive, because Coach asked if I would go to his brother’s store over at Peyton Bay and pick up a few boxes of stuff? He and my uncle are always trading stuff back and forth for their stores and selling to other shops around the state. I started my new job a few days ago, so I wanted to help out a little bit today. See you there.”
It took them just a few minutes to reach the beach at Manning Lake, and when they got out of their cars Wendy did not at all mind feeling Brian’s hand on her exposed upper back as he guided her toward one of the tables sheltered from the sun. A young man that had been a classmate of Wendy’s in high school took their order, his attention obviously diverted by the beautiful young woman in the little white dress with the long, light brown hair.
When the young man walked away Brian chuckled. “I’ll bet you get that all the time.”
Wendy shrugged and then rolled her eyes. “Guys!”
Brian’s expression grew more serious, and he clasped his hands and placed them on the table front of him. “About LeeAnn… I don’t know what she told you….”
Wendy took a deep breath and spoke in a whisper. “She told me that when you were home on leave you dumped her for no reason. She said that she was surprised because she expected that the two of you were going to end up getting married in a year or two. She said that you must’ve had someone else you wanted more, or you were just tired of her. I have resented you for that ever since.”
Brian looked away for a moment, seeming to struggle with his emotions. “I also assumed that by now LeeAnn and I would have been married for a while. It was what I wanted to happen, too.”
Wendy leaned closer. “So what…?”
“Do you know why LeeAnn ended up moving away?”
Wendy shook her head slowly. “No. And I miss her. She never calls me or even sends me a text or email.”
Brian began to drum his fingers on the table. “She left Manning Lake because the same thing happened with the next guy she was dating that happened between her and I. She was helping a friend of hers who was moving drugs for a boyfriend. And I’m not talking about weed. Talking hard drugs here When I came home it just stunned me. And that was something I couldn’t live with in a marriage. So I asked her to go to counseling to see if we could still have a chance together. But she wouldn’t do it.
“The same thing happened after we broke up, and she started seeing that paramedic from Peyton Bay. I heard this through a friend of mine on the force over there. This guy ended up breaking up with LeeAnn for the same reason. After that she moved to Houston, and she did end up going to counseling there. I understand that she’s doing all right, now, and I wish her the best and I’m always going to care for her. But it just wasn’t meant to be.”
Wendy’s face had turned from an angry pink to pale by way of unhappiness. “I just believed what she told me.”
Brian nodded slowly. “I’m sorry to tell you what happened. But I have to ask if you believe me.”
Wendy allowed a meek smile. “I do… I believe you, Brian. I guess I finally now understand what was a mystery to me before. Because, I know that your reputation… I mean… I’m trying to say, you never had the reputation of a guy who would have been so callous as that.”
Their conversation was interrupted when the server brought their lunch, and they began to eat, both of them quite tentatively under the circumstances. They made small talk about how beautiful the beach and lake looked that day, and Wendy asked Brian to tell him about the car he had bought.
Brian explained that he would be using it some on his job so that it wouldn’t be picked out as a law enforcement vehicle, and that he was going to be immediately working on a case in which such an advantage could be useful. Wendy asked him for more details, and he teasingly scolded her for asking about confidential information he had been provided before even starting work.
Suddenly Wendy’s expression was somber. “I need to level with you, Brian. It’s not very often, but maybe once a month or so I will do some weed if it’s offered. And I will confess that I do like to drink. If any of that is a deal-breaker I need to know that now.”
Brian shrugged. “I know that you’re only months away from being twenty-one, so I’m not that worried about the drinking. But be careful with the drugs. And you know as of several days ago I’m a law enforcement officer. I’d rather you don’t touch the weed at all, but please never have it around me.”
Wendy nodded slowly, and Brian could see her eyes fill with tears. “It’s a deal.” She began to giggle. “I think that I should stay out of trouble around you, since I found out several nights ago how the men in your family handle girls who get into trouble.” Suddenly Wendy wanted to take the words back, because it was immediately bringing forth a deluge of arousal in having brought the subject up with Brian.
They had enjoyed their lunch, and the server had brought refills on their drinks when a mischievous grin appeared on Brian’s face. “Now, since you just made a reference to it a few minutes ago, I think that it’s your turn to tell a story. Care to tell me what I apparently almost walked in on that night?”
Wendy’s face immediately turned red and she looked down and moaned. “It’s all so embarrassing. It was our annual prank thing. I was chosen by roll of the dice, and your father’s store was chosen at random. I was sneaking in with a bottle of wood glue…”
Brian nearly choked on his drink. “So you sneak into a store full of wooden souvenirs with a bottle of wood glue…”
Wendy buried her face in her hands. “Now you’re getting the picture. Anyway, I knocked some stuff over the dark… didn’t know that Coach was there. That’s when I was given the choice of having him call the police or…” She finally looked up with a theatrical frown. “Still hurt to sit down the next day.” Now was Brian hiding his face in his hands, but Wendy could see that he was struggling to not visibly laugh.
Wendy cleared her throat. “I am certain that you can recall what it’s like to get a… I recall he called it a ‘lickin’… from your father.”
Brian finally lowered his hands, but he was still struggling to keep from laughing out loud. “Oh. Ouch!”
Wendy felt her face turning even warmer. “Ouch… indeed!”
“Yeah, he always kept something around the house to paddle us with. The big guy could whack pretty hard.”
Wendy lowered her gaze and reached back and placed her hands on her bottom. “Tell me about it.” Talking with Brian about this was leaving her a little too turned-on.
Brian cleared his throat and tried to become more serious. “For what it’s worth, he told me that he was surprised by how well you took it. And he made some vague reference to you doing… I don’t know… I think he said something about something you had done to make sure that it really was….”
If Brian thought that Wendy’s face had been red before, he was now witnessing an entire new shade as she attempted to speak. “Because my dress was so short, he told me to lean over that table. But then, when he had just started whacking me, I looked up and saw through that door that there were bikes everywhere. I stood up and ran back in their start looking around, and then I realized what was going on.
“I started feeling so guilty, really bad about what I had done. So when it was time for him to pick up where we had left off and start spanking me again, I felt so ashamed of myself that I just went ahead and bent over and touched my toes… I can’t remember even feeling embarrassed at the moment. It was all about letting him know that I knew what I deserved, and that I was accepting that it needed to hurt. I think it’s safe to say that he didn’t ease up any because I had a little less cushion. But that’s how I took the rest of my whacks He really let me have it.”
Brian was still struggling to stay composed. “My father tended to do that.” Wendy was finding herself uncomfortably close to the edge by talking about her spanking with Brian.
Wendy laughed softly and looked up. “Not that I didn’t have it coming.” She arched her eyebrows and took another sip of her drink. “At least you didn’t walk in until it was over with. I may have lost it if that had happened.” But now that some time had passed, she realized that she wouldn’t mind one bit if Brian would be standing next to her with a paddle in his hand while she bent over and touched her toes.
She looked across at Brian who is now laughing and shaking his head. “I suppose that you would not have minded seeing all that take place. Am I right? I suppose that you have some smart-aleck comment to offer.”
He continued to laugh and began to once again drummed his fingers on the table. “I suppose that perhaps I would have offered to kiss it and make it better.”
Oh… my… gosh! He didn’t say that!
Wendy glared at him mischievously through narrowed eyes outlined by her red face, although she was feeling her abdomen flutter. “Am I supposed to tell you how I may have responded?”
Brian laughed and shook his head. “I think that you are getting a good idea of how myself and my brothers were raised. Our father was always kind of a gentle giant of a man. He was never cruel or abusive, but we knew where the lines were drawn and the consequences for stepping over them.
“Our life as a family was not typical, because of losing our mother. But coach was a very understanding father, actually quite sensitive to our feelings. He was always aware that other kids would make references to their mothers and that that could have some effect on us. He made it a point to always talk about her, even quoting things she would say in certain circumstances. He did everything he could to make it seem like she was still there with us.
“When one of us would get hurt, he would wrap us in that big warm hug of his. Any little wound, he would kiss it to make it better.
“He did not earn a lot of money, and we didn’t have any luxuries. But he gave us things that money could not buy. There was all of his love, no matter how tired he was at the end of the day.
“The man could make us feel like we were on top of the world on a Saturday night with a rented movie and a big tub of popcorn. We still have that little fire ring behind the house where we would roast marshmallows and make s’mores or roast hot dogs until they were black and crunchy. Except for not having my mother, I wouldn’t trade my childhood for anyone’s.
“He taught us respect and manners, and to take responsibility for anything we said or did. He was not quick to discipline, but when you pushed things too far, the consequences were never insignificant.”
Brian began to laugh. “I guess you could say that the other night when he caught you in his shop, you were sort of temporarily adopted into the family.”
Wendy once again reached back dramatically to place her hands on her bottom. “He certainly made me feel warm and welcome.”
Brian reached across the table and took her hands in his. “I think that I have had enough fun at the expense of you and your spanked backside. Because I would like to know if I could see you again in a couple of days, and I certainly would not want to have you think that I was anything less than a gentleman.”
Wendy burst into giggles. “Of course I’ll see you again.”
Brian glanced at his watch, then placed money on the table to pay for their lunch. “I have to go and pick up that shipment for Coach. Okay if I call you in a couple of days?”
Wendy began to chew on her lower lip. “You had better, soldier.”