“What’s that?” she asked. The words came out involuntary, before she had a chance to consider what she was saying.
“A spanking paddle,” Sean answered.
Computing the possibilities of his reply, this was the one blunt and obvious one she hadn’t planned on.
“And why would that be here now?” An unsettling agitation began grinding in her belly.
“Because I intend to use it.”
“Really? On whom?”
“I’d say that’s a rather personal question.”
“I suppose so. But you do intend to spank someone?” Her disbelief and fascination just wouldn’t let it go.
“Yes, I do. A woman who’s asked me to paddle her,” he deliberately emphasized the ‘asked’.
“You’ve got to be kidding. What woman in her right mind…”
“A woman who accepts the fact that she not only needs a little corporal discipline, but enjoys the process.”
“Women like that exist?”
“Yes, Ms. Elliot, they do. Obviously, you’re not one.”
“You’re damn right.” She squirmed in her seat, trying to absorb the shock and return to the matter at hand.
“Perhaps that fact could dissuade you from the trip?” he asked hopefully.
“What would it have to do with the trip? You’re certainly not going to spank me.”
He chuckled. “No, I suppose not.” He eyed her with amused hostility. “I understand you’re fresh off a divorce. Maybe your marriage would have survived if your husband had been a little more forceful with you.”
“I beg your pardon,” she retorted indignantly.
Sean laughed again and Lauren was livid and struggling hard to contain her growing anger.
“I’m sorry,” he backed off. “I’m sure your divorce was a painful experience.”
“Yes. It was. And I don’t see that it has anything to do with you, me, or this expedition.”
“Likely, it doesn’t,” he agreed. “But you need to remember that this is not a vacation, not a joy ride, and not an amusement park.”
“Oh, you really are hitting below the belt here, McDonough,” her blue eyes flashing keenly.
“Just making a point,” he quipped lightly.
“I’m a very capable scientist,” she went on, “and this work is my life. I realize there is nothing frivolous about what I do, or the dangers involved going into that part of the world. But I’ve read extensively about the island area where we’ll be, I’ve been on many other field expeditions and I’m thoroughly prepared to do what’s necessary to set up camp, live on my own without hassling anyone, and run my own projects. You have no reason to be so condescending.”
“Excuse me, Ms. Elliot, if that’s the way I sound. But, I’ve been on trips with women before, and it never worked out. I’m sure it’s just the male/female chemistry, but it’s not been an ideal research climate. We’ll be in the wilds for months, and well… I’m sure this will offend you too, but I don’t need a woman who’s getting homesick for love, romance or sex. I’m sure it’s just my preconceived notion but I assume that a new divorcee needs a little social life, not isolation.”
“For some, I’m sure that’s true. But let me be a judge of what I need.” She stared at the paddle again. “Frankly, if you’re using that as a means of communicating with a woman, I doubt you understand them at all. And, since you bring up the matter of relationships, I believe you’re also divorced.”
“Yes, twice, in fact.”
“Oh, two failed marriages? Maybe your grasp of male/female dynamics needs some work.”
“And you can give me a better understanding of women?”
“I’m sure I could.” She stared at the paddle again almost mesmerized by the implications. “What kind of solution is spanking them, anyway?”
“One that works,” he replied earnestly.
“Oh, and it worked in your marriages?”
“In fact, it worked quite well. My marriages broke up for reasons other than the spanking. If anything, the corporal discipline kept them together for longer than they might have lasted.”
“Really? I find that hard to believe.”