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Wesley Lawford feels like the luckiest man alive. He finally has Lena all to himself and he is trying to build a new life with her and their child. But as Lena's divorce drags on, her fears of what others think have her retreating from the world, and worse, closing herself off to him. Afraid of losing Lena as she continues secluding herself, Wesley knows he must be firm with his future wife and Lena soon finds herself over Wesley's knee for a hard bare-bottom spanking. Will a firm hand and loving domestic discipline bring back the woman he loves? Will simply loving Lena be enough to keep them together?
Loving Lena is the second in the Ravenswood Manor series. The book is a Victorian romance set during the beginning of America's Bicycle Craze, in 1890's Philadelphia. Although each book can be read alone, characters from the first book in the series, Emmaline's Groom, are referenced in Loving Lena.
Lena shifted in her chair once again. Wesley rested his hand on her thigh, under the dining room table, and gave it a firm squeeze. Her face heated and she looked up to see Emmaline witnessing the exchange. Lena glanced down at her plate of untouched food. Her thoughts were mired in the argument they had before dinner. It was not finished as far as Lena was concerned, so her dinner conversation had been strained at best.
She drifted back to the encounter, replaying the whole scene in her mind-- she had dreaded leaving the house to have dinner with Emmaline and Leo. She would have rather spent another night at home, whiling away her time.
"Darling, we are going to be late if you do not get a move on." Wesley's voice was unusually stern, taking Lena by surprise.
She was standing in their bedroom in just her shift and pantalets. Her raven colored hair was wound up in a coif, held together by numerous hair pins. Her dress for dinner was laid out on the bed and she had meant to be ready by the time Wesley had arrived home, but her mind had been drifting all afternoon.
"Come here, my love. I will help you." Wesley held his arms out for her to come to him.
Her maid, Lily was off for the night. She had asked for the night off before Lena and Wesley had plans to go out and Lena did not have the heart to tell her she had to stay to help her dress.
Instead of feeling happy that Wesley should want to help her dress for the evening, she felt annoyed, as if he thought she were incapable of doing it herself.
"I can manage," Lena snapped. "I will be downstairs momentarily."
Wesley raised an eyebrow, his light green eyes piercing as he assessed her. He did not comment, but did not exit the room, either. He stood back and watched. She could feel his eyes on her body as she tried to wrestle herself into her corset. The weight she still carried from her recent pregnancy making that task more difficult. She had a slight frame, but since her pregnancy with George she had not been able to lose the extra weight. Wesley argued that it made her more curvaceous in all the right places, but it just made her feel self conscious. Her fingers slipped from the ribbons and she curled her hands into fists in frustration.
"Come here, let me help you," Wesley suggested. His tone was lighter and she saw his mouth twitching up.
"Do not laugh," she snapped again. She blinked back tears, her mounting emotions ready to boil over.
He breathed out a sigh and crossed over to her. Wrapping his arms around her middle he pulled her into his chest and rested his chin on the top of her head. "I am only trying to help," he said as he rubbed a hand on her upper back. "I am trying to be patient, but you should also watch your tone when speaking to me." His other hand found her pert bottom and he gave her a firm squeeze through her drawers.
Goose bumps raised on her arm. She had not meant to upset him. She could not get out of her own mind long enough to see that her behavior was affecting those around her.
He turned her around and fastened her corset for her, his hands lingering on her hips.
"I apologize, do you forgive me?" she whispered.
Wesley sat on the bed and pulled her down onto his lap. "Of course, my love." He chucked her chin and a concerned look crossed his features as he studied her face. "Are you well? You look tired."
"I am fine." Her answer was automatic and oft repeated for months now.
"You are not fine." He tilted her head back with a hand under her chin, peering down into her eyes, "Have you been sleeping? You are never in bed when I wake."
"Yes," she replied and looked past him.
"Do not lie." Again, a sternness in his tone that she was not used to hearing.
Her eyes darted back to his.
"You need more sleep. I think this is the cause of your mood," he insisted.
She had heard enough. Lena pushed herself up from his lap, trying to turn out of his grasp, "We will be late."
He pulled her back down, "I am not done speaking to you."
Her hackles were raised, ready for a fight, but the concern in his eyes shut her down. She let him pull her into a tight embrace, one she did not return.
"You will come to bed at a reasonable time. And if you are having trouble sleeping we shall ring for the doctor," he informed her.
"I am fine, Wesley, please just let it be."
"I will not. You are my-" he started. "You are mine to take care of."
"Were you going to say wife?" She could hear the venom in her own voice, but he had struck a nerve. She finally wrestled from his grasp and rose to her feet.
"In due time, love. Please trust that it is almost settled."
She folded her arms and stared out the window into the late afternoon sun.
Wesley came up behind her and she whirled around to face him. "I thought I felt like a prisoner before. But it was nothing compared to how I feel now," she spat out. She was close to shouting at him, but tried to keep an even tone.
His surprised look told her she did not accomplish it.
"How do you expect me to live my life when I am in hiding?"
"What is there to hide?" His voice held a hint of exasperation and she realized having this conversation again was not going to change the outcome.
She did not answer him. He knew what there was to hide. It was not something they had meant to do, but they were now living in a new city, with a new baby, and she was still married to another man.
Wesley encouraged her to go out and socialize, but she did not want to make new friends and have to lie to them. Lena decided she would stay in as much as possible until they had the whole matter worked out. She would not be the subject of gossip and ridicule, and she refused to uproot herself again.
It was all taking much longer than she anticipated and she was growing tired and forlorn in keeping herself locked away; especially when Wesley came and went as he pleased. Either no one was asking him questions or he was a far better storyteller than she.
"I do not wish to discuss this anymore. If you say it will be dealt with soon, then I trust you." She moved to pick up her dress, hoping to put an end to the conversation.
"It will be. Soon. You have my promise." He reached out and touched her shoulder, but she shrugged out of his grasp.
She squealed in protest when he took her by the waist and spun her around.
"I am still not pleased with your attitude," he lectured. "If you are feeling lonely maybe Emmaline can come by more often. I will try to help you how I can, but you need to stop this at once." He gave her shoulders a shake as he finished his sentence.
"How will watching your baby sister help me to feel less like a prisoner in my own home?" she shot back.
"Lena," he said her name softly and brushed a hand across her bare shoulder. "Why are you trying to start an argument?"
"I am not starting it, it just is!" she shouted, and realized it felt good to shout. She had all these emotions welling up inside her and she had been beating them down for so long she was ready to explode.
"Do not shout," he reprimanded. Releasing her shoulders he crossed the room, removing his jacket from the armoire. "Let us have a nice dinner and then I will be putting you to bed at a reasonable time tonight. We can talk more about it later."
"You will do no such thing!"
He turned to look at her, his mouth set in a grim line. "You will stop shouting, and we will talk about it later."
She stomped her foot, "I am not a child and you are not giving me a bedtime."
"Stop acting like a child before I treat you like one," he warned.
She did not have time to process his words because she was already looking for something to throw. She was angry. Angry at Wesley, angry at herself, angry at the whole situation. She did not want him telling her what she could and could not do, and she did not feel like having a rational discussion about it.
She turned to the nightstand and picked up the first thing she could get her hands on, a book she had been reading. Turning back around, the book raised above her head, she was startled to find Wesley right behind her.
He took her wrist in a firm grip. "Stop it at once," he said, as he disarmed her of the book.
She tried to pull away from him, needing space between them. She had scared herself with her own display of ill temper. "We will be late," she said, her voice trembling as she tried to blink back tears.
"I do not care anymore. What is going on with you?" He had both of her wrists now and he tightened his hold the more she struggled. "Lena?"
"Wesley, we will be late. Stop arguing with me!"
When he sat on the bed, she thought he was giving her space to finish dressing, but his grasp remained on her wrists.
"What are you-" Her question died on her lips as he upended her over his knee.
Truly, he would not spank her?
She knew Leo spanked Emmaline, but if there were ever a woman that needed to be taken in hand, it was Emmaline. She had asked Wesley about it once when they had overheard them. Leo and Emmaline had been living with them before they bought their own house. She and Wesley heard the unmistakable sounds late one night. Lena was surprised to find that Wesley was not more shocked, explaining to her that plenty of men exercised their right to warm their wives' bottoms. She giggled at the thought, not knowing she could ever do something to get Wesley so upset. Wesley was more in need of direction than she, and he told her he would never raise a hand to her, ever.
But now, here she was, face down across his lap. She knew exactly what he intended, and she surprised herself in thinking that maybe she deserved a little correction today.
"I am putting a stop to this nonsense," he told her, and his hand fell in a hard smack on the back of her pantalets.
She shrieked and kicked her feet out behind her. "You have worked yourself into hysterics and I will not stand by and watch you come undone." He spanked her again and she tried to find her words.
Wesley placed a steadying hand on her lower back. Then she felt him seek out the slit in her drawers.
"Wesley!" She was frantic now, he was intending to spank her on the bare? She put a hand back behind her, wanting to protect her vulnerable backside from his unforgiving hand.
"We are done fighting," he said. He captured her hand, holding it against her lower back as he balanced her. "You will not shout." His hand fell on her naked cheeks.
"And you most certainly will not throw things at me." He punctuated his sentence with a harder smack, "Ever." Then he stopped speaking and began spanking in earnest.
Lena did not have time to register each stinging slap as his hand rose and fell in a quick rhythm. She tried to struggle against him as he paid particular attention to the sensitive flesh of her lower buttocks. After the fourth hard slap to the same exact spot she cried out in agony.
Wesley paused and she felt his large palm resting on her heated bottom. "Are you ready to apologize?"
She hesitated, her mind not moving quick enough to keep up.
Another spank burned her flesh before she realized what he was asking of her,"Yes!" she yelled. "I am sorry. I am so very sorry."
They were the magic words. He pulled her up and she stood before him.
"Thank you," he said. He suddenly looked uncomfortable and he stood, placing a kiss on her forehead. "You are a good girl. I am sorry I had to do that."
She was ready to sink into his arms. Yes, her bottom stung, but they could move on now, she just needed the reassurance that he was no longer angry at her terrible behavior. But before she could move toward him, Wesley was walking to the door.
"I will leave you to it. Come downstairs when you are ready." Then without glancing in her direction he exited the room.
Emmaline broke the moment of tension and pulled her from her thoughts, "How have things been with you, Lena?"
"I have been well, thank you, Emmaline," Lena murmured, not raising her eyes from her plate. Surely, Emmaline just wanted to know what was going on between her and Wesley. She would not really care how things were with her.
"Grand!" Emmaline said, a bit forcefully.
Lena looked up to meet her eyes, she had not meant to upset their hostess. “This is an excellent roast, Emmaline. I believe your cooking skills are vastly improving.”
Both of the men nodded in agreement.
“Oh, it was nothing really. Grace helped me get the roast in the oven, but the potatoes I did myself.”
Lena was not surprised, she had not been able to get her fork through one, but she did not want to hurt her feelings.
Wesley did not mind so much. “I could have guessed that, baby sister. I do not think they are cooked at all.”
“Try not to choke on them, Wesley, that would be a pity,” Emmaline hissed across the table.
“Emmaline,” Leo raised his eyebrows at his young wife.
Lena let out the first real laugh she had in days. The smile pulling at her mouth felt foreign to her.
"Leo, darling, I could not possibly eat another bite. Do you mind if I take Lena out to show her the new additions to our garden?" Emmaline gave her young husband a dazzling smile.
Lena brought her napkin to her face, trying to disguise her mouth twisting at Emmaline's over-exaggerated move to get her alone.
"That is a good idea," Wesley chimed in. "Go out and get some air. When you come back in we shall have dessert." He gave her leg one more squeeze and then released it, rising from his chair to assist her out of her own.
Lena followed Emmaline down the stairs of the apartment building out into the garden the tenants shared. Philadelphia was an ever growing city, but between the parks and the gardens there was still enough greenery for Lena not to miss the country. The sun had just begun to set, the summer season bringing longer daylight hours.
Once they were a few paces into the garden Emmaline turned to her.
"Would you like to talk about it? Or shall I pretend I really came out here to make you look at plants and let you stew in silence?"
Lena let out a startled laugh. Emmaline was the most direct person she had ever met and she was not sure if the younger woman knew how lucky she was that Leo had brought her to America. Certainly, she fit into this new country far better than she ever would have as a society woman in England.
"Did you think you were hiding anything? What did my horrible brother do to you now?" Emmaline linked her arm through Lena's and pulled her close to her side.
"How do you know something has happened between us?" Lena felt her face heat again, embarrassed that anyone would guess something had transpired between her and Wesley.
Emmaline rolled her eyes and tugged Lena with her toward a wooden bench in the corner of the garden. She plopped down and waited for Lena to sit beside her.
"I think I would rather stand," she said and shifted her gaze to a rosebush next to the bench.
"Oh! I did not guess that. I have had plenty of discussions with Leo that ended with me preferring to stand." Emmaline gave her a smile and joined her on her feet.
"I am well aware what goes on between you and Leo. You did live with us for quite some time," Lena replied. "I think I blame your husband for putting ideas into Wesley's head."
Emmaline let out a laugh. A light, rolling giggle that Lena could not help but smile at.
"We probably should not have left them alone," Emmaline said, clutching her sides as she laughed. "They are probably trading tips on how to tame their wayward wives."
Lena tensed up at the comment. This had been the source of her argument with Wesley tonight and she did not want to revisit it so soon.
"I am sorry. I misspoke." Emmaline placed a hand on her arm. "But you do know what I mean. You are as good as married as far as I am concerned."
"I would rather not discuss it now, thanks though," Lena bit out.
"Right, then," Emmaline dropped her hand and turned toward the plants. "Let us just take in the sights of the garden I suppose."
Lena let out a sigh, it was not Emmaline's fault for bringing up the matter that had been weighing down on her for months. Wesley assured her again that the lawyers would have all the papers ready soon and they would be legally married before anyone in their new city knew the truth. She just had to trust him and give her scattered mind a rest.
“I have not been sleeping,” Lena divulged. She twisted her hands in her skirt, she did not want to revisit their argument, but maybe having someone to talk to would ease her mind.
“That is not uncommon. The baby must wake you,” Emmaline assured her.
“No, I do not sleep even when he does,” she continued confessing. “Besides, we have Nanny now, and baby George does not wake up as often.” She felt tears pricking her eyes, “Wesley has grown tired of my moods.”
"Nonsense," Emmaline assured her. She was at Lena's side again. "Wesley loves you more than I have seen any man love a woman. He is not tired of you."
Lena shook her head, the tears coming now. Certain she had pushed too hard. She did not even have the security of a marriage between them yet. Alistair had changed and become mean once they were married. Maybe it was not him, as she had suspected, but something wrong with her.
Emmaline put an arm around her shoulders. "Honestly, I would go give him a piece of my mind right now if I did not think Leo would take me to task for it." She produced a handkerchief from the sleeve of her dress and dabbed at Lena's eyes, "Why not tell me what happened? I will be happy to pay him a visit tomorrow if you need me to put him in his place."
Lena took the handkerchief from Emmaline and tried to stop her hands from shaking. She recounted what happened with Wesley before they arrived for dinner. When she got to the part about Wesley walking out of the room after her spanking, she broke down further.
Emmaline put her arm around her and pulled her close. “All right, it is all fine now.”
She held Lena in a hug as she cried and finally got a hold of herself. Embarrassed, Lena pulled away and tried to dab at the tears in her eyes with the borrowed handkerchief.
“Lena, do you mind my asking if this was the first time Wesley spanked you?” Emmaline had a look of concern on her face. Pink tinged her cheeks, but she held Lena's gaze, making her feel like this conversation held an air of importance.
Lena nodded her head affirmatively. Then she quickly looked away as she heard Leo call them from the doorway.
Emmaline reached for her hand and squeezed it, “Let us go in. You can use our room and freshen yourself up for a minute, and I will see what the men have been up to.”
They walked into the building and Emmaline guided toward the bedroom when they entered the apartment. “Go on, take your time.” She gave her a shining smile and Lena felt a little more at ease.
Wesley was just starting to feel calmer, sipping on his second glass of brandy, when his sister came barreling into the room.
"You fool!" she shouted at him.
Wesley looked over at Leo, who was not even correcting his wife's outburst, as he too stared back at her in wide-eyed shock.
"Do you ever think?" she continued.
"What are you going on about?" he finally asked.
"Emma, stop yelling this instant," Leo reprimanded, placing his own glass down in front of him.
"Leo, we need to talk some sense into him!" she went on.
"Why? What is going on? Where is Lena?" Wesley rose to his feet, just realizing that Lena did not return with his sister.
"Sit down!" Emmaline pushed him back into his chair as she continued her tirade. "Let me speak my piece."
Leo motioned to the cushion beside him, "Emma, come sit and tell us what has you worked up."
"He has me worked up. How could you be so stupid?" She paced the floor in front of them.
"Enough!" Emmaline froze at Leo's command, even Wesley noted the change in Leo's tone. "Calm down and tell us what is going on, and keep the name calling to a minimum."
Wesley braced himself for his sister to go off like a firework, but he was surprised to see her sit down beside Leo. Indeed, this man was good for Emmaline.
"Leo, you will not believe what he did," she said. "Lena is so upset." She turned to look at him, "You are such a buffoon!"
"Emma," Leo warned.
"You cannot just leave a woman to her own devices after you have punished her, Wesley. She is devastated and she thinks you are tired of her, she is afraid you will leave her." Emmaline seemed shaken as well.
Wesley opened his mouth to speak, but she continued.
"I tried to calm her down, but you need to say something. You do not even know what you have done!" She jumped to her feet again but Leo caught her around the waist.
"All right, my sweet Emmaline. You have told him what happened, but you must stop berating our guest now."
"He is not a guest! He is my brother! And he is a moron!"
Wesley was still processing everything Emmaline told him while she and Leo bickered about who was considered a guest and who deserved respect in their home.
He stood and interrupted them, "Where is she now?"
"I am right here."
They all turned to find Lena standing in the doorway. Her cheeks were red and she wrung her hands in front of her. "I did not realize I was to become the topic of conversation by leaving the room for a moment." She gave Emmaline a pointed look and his sister had the decency to look ashamed.
Leo cleared his throat, breaking the silence in the room, "If you would like some dessert, we have a few choices-"
"I think I would rather just be going, thanks," Lena interjected. She looked up at Wesley. "Please take me home."
He nodded his agreement, his mind still spinning as he said goodbye to Emmaline and Leo. He followed Lena outside into the early dusk. The air was cooling now that the sun had gone away. They began walking down the street as there were only three blocks between the two houses. When Lena went to turn up their street he tugged her to his side, and continued walking straight ahead.
"Where are we going?" she questioned him, but followed.
"It is nice out tonight, let us walk and enjoy it."
She did not respond, but she did not argue.
"Were you crying when you and Emmaline were out in the garden?" His heart was breaking that she was so upset and did not come to him.
"Your sister has a big mouth," she ground out.
Wesley laughed, that was the understatement of the century, "Yes, well, some things can always be counted on. Emmaline not being able to keep something to herself is one of them. Tell me what is wrong."
"I am fine."
Wesley stopped and turned to face her, "You say that a lot, you know, I am starting not to believe you." He cupped her cheek and caressed her soft skin with his thumb.
Lena closed her eyes and leaned into his hand. "Are you still cross with me?"
"No, my love. Why would you think that?"
A tear rolled down her cheek and when she looked up at him again her blue eyes were glassy. "I do not want you to grow tired of me."
"I will never grow tired of you," he promised. He pulled her against him and she wrapped her arms around his waist.
"I am sorry for the way I have been acting, I will try harder."
He put a hand in her hair, "No, I will try harder to be better to you. You are right. This whole matter is taking longer than it should be and you should not be trapped in the house."
She sighed against him in response and he felt the tension leave her little body.
"Are you upset that I spanked you?" he whispered to her, not knowing if they were alone on the street.
She shook her head against him, "No, I was hurt when you left me."
Now he understood. He had noticed something shift between them after he was through spanking her. He could not tell if she was angry or bothered and he hurried out of the room before another argument started. He had been afraid she would be more angry with him that he had tried to take her in hand. He had been at his wit's end, Lena was normally mild tempered and even-keeled. Spanking her had been his last resort, but once it was done he questioned his tactic.
He turned them around and aimed them toward home. "Let us get home then, I shall not leave you the rest of the night."
She smiled up at him and his heart soared. He could not wait to give her his surprise in the morning.