Jack Fawkes sighed as he pulled into Maggie’s driveway with a Christmas wreath on the front seat next to him. He looked down at it as if the dead, festive tree-branch was mocking him. The truth was that he just didn’t feel very Christmasy… Not that he wasn’t very religious and respected the holiday’s importance, and for the sake of the townsfolk he found himself even pretending to be into the holiday spirit.
But the unfortunate fact was that he was lonely, he was in his thirties, and he was going to get snubbed by Joanna Menard when he walked into the house — he just knew it. With any other girl, some snobbery wouldn’t move him at all. He was the town sheriff and was used to being known as the ‘bad guy,’ but Joanna had a way about her that made him feel two feet tall… which he was sure was her plan.
“Time to get it over with,” he said, grabbing the wreath as he left his car.
Maggie liked him, though. In fact, Maggie was a surrogate mother to him while he was in his teens. When his mother was fighting cancer, and eventually died from it, Maggie Menard was always there to make sure his father, his brother, and he didn’t die of starvation. She would also snoop enough to make sure he and his brother didn’t get into any amount of regrettable trouble, which he appreciated even today — hence the wreath.
He knocked on the door and put on a grin in preparation for the door being answered. He could hear the sound of someone coming near. Then he heard a muffled voice groan, “Oh, Lord… It’s him.”
“Who?” came a much more distant, nearly inaudible, answer.
“Well, answer it and lead him back here. I’m elbow deep in cookie dough!”
The door’s lock clicked and the door opened wide, revealing Jo, who was more gorgeous than he even remembered with her glassy emerald eyes and her long, dark brown hair draped over both shoulders. She wasn’t dressed to impress; despite it being mid-morning, she was still in a black t-shirt, flannel pajama bottoms, and huge slippers that resembled milk cows. Her expression was even less welcoming than her outfit. She seemed to groan through her eyes.
“Hi,” she said wearily.
“Hey Jo,” he replied with a friendly grin. “Nice slippers,” he teased lightly, looking for some sort of conversation that might make her smile.
“Nice hat,” she said, her voice dripping with sarcasm. She didn’t even have to gesture to the fluffy flap-hat he was wearing. She stepped aside to let him inside the house, closing the door behind him.
“It is nice,” he assured, trying to take anything she told him with a light attitude. “It’s warm. It’s perfect. Don’t know what I’d do without it.”
“I’m sure your life feels very complete,” she droned, rolling her eyes as she turned away from him and began to walk towards the kitchen. “She’s this way,” she informed over her shoulder.
He struggled to take off his shoes and said, “So, you done with college?” He was desperate to make any sort of conversation with her.
“Yeah,” she answered, standing still so that he could catch up to her lead. “Art degree managed.”
“4.0!” her aunt called from the kitchen proudly.
“Wow,” he said, genuinely impressed. “Great job,” he encouraged with a grin.
Jo blushed and looked away from him again. “It’s just an art degree.” She shrugged. “And it took me four and a half years to get it,” she said as if it lessened the achievement. “It’s no big deal.”
“Do you know what you want to do now?”
Jo turned to him slowly, putting on a robotic-like stare.
In actuality, Jo couldn’t get over why he was asking these questions at all, except to either mock her or be polite. In essence, she had ended and disregarded all of their past friendly relationship, and felt he had to be relieved by her doing so. Why was he set on continuing to waste her time with automaton questions? “No,” she answered, and led him into the kitchen. She opened her arms and presented him like she was selling a new appliance to her old aunt, who was balling up cookie dough into balls. “There he is! Now, I’m off to the shower. If I don’t come back in an hour, send a search party.”
Crestfallen inwardly, Jack simply watched as Jo shuffled silently out of the room without so much as a ‘goodbye’.
“Merry Christmas, Jack,” Maggie said, her face bright with smiles and wrinkles. She walked over to him with her arms outstretched and tried to hug this man who was easily a foot taller than she was.
“Merry Christmas,” he said, picking up the wreath and waving it. “Or, Merry Christmas in three days, I should say.” He winked at her playfully.
She clapped her hands together excitedly as she eyed the wreath. “Excellent! Thanks so much! Put it on the table. I’d take it, but I’m sticky with cookie dough.”
“Well, thanks for hugging me then,” he teased.
She waved at him dismissively. “I didn’t get you,” she assured with a chiding smirk. “How are you these days? You haven’t visited in two weeks now!
“Yeah, well… I wanted Jo to become situated before I came up,” he admitted, looking over at the kitchen island where a large scattering of several different types of cookies sat.
She watched him scavenge for food with interest for a moment before she said, “You know, Jo’s single and here for awhile… Why don’t you try asking her out? Maybe for a cup of coffee or something?”
He chuckled. So, Maggie could tell that he was interested in her niece. He wasn’t too surprised. Maggie always seemed able to read someone’s intentions in a matter of seconds. He was never able to lie to her. “Because she might take a swing at me!” He stole a cookie and took a big bite. Afterwards, he walked towards the fridge and took out some milk — just like he used to do as a teenager. He’d always eat and run. But Maggie, for whatever the reason, liked it.
“She’s interested,” Maggie enlightened with a quiet voice. “Oh, she’s too stubborn to admit it. But I’ve seen the way she looks at you.”
“Like I’m diseased?” he said with a full mouth, unable to let what Maggie was trying to say penetrate his skin. There was simply no way Jo was interested in him, as painful as it was to swallow, and all the wishful thinking in the world from her aunt wasn’t going to make a bit of difference. “No, I’m afraid I ruined it.”
“If you’re suggesting that she won’t talk to you because once upon a time you spanked her, you’ve got another thing coming,” Maggie assured firmly, trying to accentuate her seriousness by pointing a chunk of cookie dough at him. “You hurt her feelings somehow. She holds onto a grudge, but she never stopped liking you. I think you just have to be… a little persistent. Look, you need to come over and woo her. Try to crack that hard shell of hers. I’m not telling you that you have to be nice, either. But sincere and honest won’t hurt. She’s smart, but she can be as thick as a brick. As can you.”
Reaching for a second cookie, he said, “I don’t know, Maggie. I think you’re seeing something that just isn’t there,” he admitted, then sucked air through his teeth as she snapped him on the back of his hand with a wooden spoon.
“Don’t be a pig,” she said. “I’m sending Jo to deliver cookies today. You’re on the list,” she promised. “Why don’t you come up and have Christmas dinner with the Ruarks, Jo and me?”
He hummed thoughtfully. “Hm, well… As much as I like your next door neighbors, Mag, the feeling’s not exactly mutual since last week when I busted little Kevin with a DWI. That would create a little bit of awkwardness, I’d say.”
She rolled her eyes. “You just are no good at politics, Jack,” she said with a grin, shaking her head. “But you’re a good boy.”
“Maggie — I’m thirty two,” Jack reminded with good humor.
“Oh, God! I feel so old,” Maggie sighed exasperatedly.
“I wouldn’t worry about me being anywhere for Christmas, anyway,” he mentioned pessimistically. “I’m gonna be snowed in. So are you, in fact. You’ll be able to make it to the Ruarks, but not into town, for certain. Remember? It’s like I told you on the phone the other day—we’ve got reports of a huge ice and snow storm heading our way. We’ll be buried, so if you need to do something, make sure it’s done before mid-afternoon. That’s when they say it’s gonna hit.”
“You don’t have to work?” she asked, or rather, hoped. Like a mother, she worried incessantly about Jack, and she would only worry more if he had to drive roads in horrible conditions in the middle of nowhere; ambulances were famous for not even making trips up to the mountain during storms. It was as if the town would be cut off from the world.
“No. I have the day off,” he said, though he didn’t sound too happy about it. “My deputy begged to work that day when he found out his mother-in-law was visiting. He’d rather be snowed in at the office than with her…” He gave a sigh.
“Well, maybe some time to yourself is what you need this year, Jack,” Maggie mentioned wisely. “I think you need to do some soul-searching, Honey. I know you’re unhappy.”
He was suddenly getting uncomfortable about how pensive Maggie was getting in her old age. “I’m happy. Perfectly, wonderfully gaga about life,” he exaggerated, wishing with all his might it was true.
She sighed and raised an eyebrow. Finally, she just threw her hands in the air as if she surrendered. “Alright, alright, I’ll keep out of it,” she promised. “It’s your life…”
“That’s right,” he said with a nod. “It’s my life…. And my cookie.” He mischievously snatched his hand out and grabbed a cookie before she could react. Then he walked over and kissed her on the cheek before he turned to leave, shoving the cookie in his mouth as he did so. “Merry Christmas if I don’t see you ‘til after. Call me if you have any emergencies,” he offered, but he had a feeling she wouldn’t. Maggie’s house was stable, her pantries were stocked better than most castles, and although she had a bad hip, she had close neighbors and a niece to ease up her chores and keep her from hurting herself.
He knew that she was right, though — he did need to do some soul-searching over the break. His life wasn’t turning out like he hoped it would. He became sheriff when he was twenty-eight, but it didn’t seem like he had progressed much after that. He needed a big change; he just didn’t know what that was going to be. That was simply going to have to be his Christmas Wish—if such a thing existed—figuring out what that change was going to be.
* * *
Jo stood motionlessly in the shower, deep in thought, just letting the hot water flow over her.
Whenever she saw Jack she could barely think of anything else for a long time. She hated how her emotions were so conflicting. On the one hand, she didn’t want anything to do with him; on the other, she thought he was the most gorgeous, wonderful man alive.
She figured most of the things that made her nearly swoon when she saw him were only emotional remnants of her past. Before she was eighteen, she thought the man walked on water. He was nearly ten years older than she was, and acted like he was twenty years older. When she was sixteen, it already seemed like Jack had his life figured completely out. He was fresh out of the military, after serving two terms, and it seemed like everything he did, and everything he said, was just good — pure and simple.
She wasn’t alone in her thinking, either. All the other girls in her high school felt the same way about him. It was impossible not to. Jack was tall, had a fine, chiseled body, a hard jaw line, sharp, piercing blue eyes… Everyone thought that he was all that is man.
And, out of all the girls in town, she was the one that got to see the most of him. Because of his connection to her aunt, he seemed to take extremely kindly to her and oozed attention on her. She figured now that he did that because he was trying to help her get through the shock of her parents’ death — maybe because he had experience when it came to loss. His mother died when he was a teenager as well, and he was no stranger to grieving.
He spoiled her, which was exactly what she needed at the time. He would bring her thoughtful little gifts, take her out to movies, and drive her to Bend, Oregon to go shopping. He would even pick her up and drop her off at school constantly, making her the envy of every girl she knew.
She hadn’t been a good student before her parents’ car accident; she hadn’t been a good kid, actually. But Jack did seem to keep her focused — enough to get good enough grades for college. Her world had seemed more and more right every day, even though the high school crowd that existed in the small town was quite a rough bunch, and it was hard to stay out of trouble.
So by the time she was a senior she was well liked enough to get invited to everything—every party, every camping trip, every concert. Maggie was oblivious, and Jo had begun to keep Jack, who was the town’s sheriff by then, as much at bay as she could. But the more she separated herself from him, the more suspicious he became.
Suspicious or not, and however much he seemed to be on her case, she loved it. And she came to realize that she was in love with him. And since she was at that age where everyone seemed to be hooking up in the back of old Chevy trucks, or underneath the football bleachers, she decided that she wanted Jack Fawkes to be her first — who else was more perfect? No one else was as appealing in any form. No one held the type of magic she felt Jack was capable of. And since he spent so much time with her, she felt that she wasn’t too off-base in thinking he might reciprocate her feelings.
The perfect opportunity to plan such an event was when her aunt left for a whole week in January of her senior year. There was no better time; she was eighteen, she was alone, she had a whole house to herself… There would be plenty of time to seduce Jack.
Of course, as soon as the rest of her friends got wind of the fact that she wouldn’t be inconvenienced by her Aunt’s watchful eye for a whole week, they got her to take up other interests as well. She had a lot of time on her hands, and she figured Jack simply couldn’t stop by half as often as she even wished he would. He worked, after all.
Maggie had left Saturday morning, and by Saturday afternoon her girlfriends and she were already hanging around the house with a cabinet full of liquor and a Ziploc full of weed; giggling with each other and talking about boys in their class. That is, until Jane actually called one of the subjects of their conversation, and in return got them all invited to go up to the ski slopes with boys. They were expected to provide the booze, of course, which, thanks to Maggie not locking up the liquor cabinet, seemed like a pretty fair plan.
Just as they had hauled the cooler into the back of her aunt’s Chevy, however, the sound of tires at the bottom of the driveway made them all think incredibly sober thoughts, very quickly.
Jack strolled down the driveway with his hands in his pockets, but the closer he got, the more suspicious his expression became. Although she noted to herself that it was probably just paranoia brought on from being hammered, Jo felt that his blue eyes fixated on her a little too carefully.
“Hi, Jack!” she welcomed with as much enthusiasm as she could muster. “How ya doin’?” she asked sing-songishly, tilting her head innocently and even batting her long eye lashes.
“Just checking on you,” he answered honestly, looking towards the house, and then looking back at them. “You girls off somewhere?”
Jo looked over at the girls — Jane and Mary swooned in silence for a moment before one of them answered shyly, “Yeah… We’re off to meet Russell and Peter at the slopes.”
“Sounds like fun,” he replied off-handedly, his eyes going from girl to girl. “You remembered to turn off the stove and everything, right?” he asked Jo as he started to walk towards the house. He turned his head over his shoulder as he asked, “And the heater?”
“I forgot the heater.” Jo hiccupped once, but she passed it off smoothly by coughing. The girls were having trouble restraining a nervous giggle. “Can you turn it off for me, Jack? We’re kinda in a hurry.”
“Sure,” he replied. “I’ll turn it off, but hold on.” Jack held up a finger to signal her to wait before disappearing into the house.
Mary and Jane looked over at Jo with extremely nervous expressions, despite their maniacal grins that they didn’t seem to be able to batten down inside themselves. “He’s alright,” Jo assured with a relaxed wave of her mitten. “He’s probably just coming back out to tell us to turn on the headlights and to wear our seatbelts.” Jo rolled her eyes, but added with adoration as she looked towards the house, “It’s like he thinks I’m five.”
The girls giggled, starting to feel more at ease and began to file into the truck. Jack seemed to be in the house for quite a few minutes before he came back out, just as Jo was checking which of the dozen pockets of her winter coat she might have left the keys in.
He walked right up to the driver’s side and opened her door. With absolutely no pause about him, he reached across and took off her safety belt, fluidly yanking her out of the car by her upper arm. “Everybody out,” he ordered the other two girls, pointing at the far side of the car while he kept his hand tightly wrapped around Jo’s arm. He wheeled her over to the back of the truck just in time to meet the other girls there, who now only wore nervous grimaces on their faces rather than triumphant grins.
He released Jo roughly and opened the back of the Chevy. He reached into the truck with an angry grunting noise, grabbed the cooler inside, and dragged it toward him before opening it.
Jo hiccupped again, wondering if she had ever been so nervous or ashamed. She looked over at the girls, and although all their expressions conveyed anxiety, they also had a look of resolve to all of them that seemed to communicate that none of them were allowed to break down and admit to anything.
They watched silently as he opened the cooler, looked inside, then closed it again.
He heaved a loud, disappointed sigh before he slowly turned back around and crossed his arms, looking at them all accusingly, but especially Jo. “Well, Miss Menard? Do you have any amazingly riveting reason for having Maggie’s entire bar in that cooler?”
Red faced and guilty, Jo realized that she didn’t have the will to look him straight in the face. Her eyes lowered, instead, to the area around his navel.
“I didn’t think so,” he said. “Minor in possession?” He snorted and shook his head in disappointment. He held out his hand. “Give me the keys, Jo. I’m driving your friends home. Playdate over. Wherever you kids were going is not where you need to be.”
With an angry, thwarted huff, and finding no way to defy him, Jo checked her coat pockets again until she finally found the keys in her pants. She walked up to him and put the keys roughly into his open hand.
Very suddenly, his facial expression fell from disappointed to angry. Quick as a flash, he grabbed her coat and took a couple of hard sniffs of her. She blushed at the audacity, wondering what she just did that tipped him off to investigate her further.
“Have you already been drinking?” he asked her warily.
“No,” she lied stoutly, glaring at him.
“Do you want me to get my Breathalyzer?” he challenged further.
She could have sworn she heard one of the girls gulp, but she wasn’t too alarmed by the threat — she would have liked him to go search his car for his breathalyzer, if he even had it in there. She could have then had time to go behind a bush and use her very impressive gag-reflex to get rid of the evidence, eaten some snow, chewed a mint and been back in time to evade his wrath. “Go ahead,” she dared. “We haven’t been doing anything. We weren’t even going to drink it. We were going to watch the boys do it.”
“Uh huh,” he said disbelievingly, letting go of her jacket. His narrowed his eyebrows for a long moment as he stared her down. She knew he was upset; there was a vein in his neck she had never seen before, and she hadn’t ever seen him lock his jaw like that. But then, he finally just pulled the arm of his jacket over his watch to look at it. “Alright. You’d better make it to ten. Stand on one foot… All of you.”
Jane and Mary definitely gulped this time.
“Ready?” he asked, eyeing them. Jo, unlike the other two girls, looked strongly confident. “Go. One—”
No one ever thinks they’d actually be drunk enough not to be able to stand on one foot for ten seconds. Jo, in particular, was specifically peppy about the challenge. Then, unfortunately, she realized how good of a test it was.
She couldn’t even balance herself to the ending of the word “one.” Whether Jane or Mary could have lasted longer was never discovered, because as soon as Jo failed, Jack grabbed the scruff of her jacket and hauled her back over to the trunk of the Chevy.
Before she even knew what his intentions were, he had quickly and effectively unzipped the front of her pants, moving faster than she thought possible. Less than half a second later, she was draped bare-assed over his lap with a horror-struck expression on her face. When she looked for help from her friends, she could tell they weren’t even going to move. They were paralyzed with shock and guilty fascination.
Jack spanked with purpose, raising his hand high and bringing it down mercilessly upon her bare flesh as she squeaked and tried to buck and wiggle off of his lap for want of her life. Even now, she could still remember what he ranted while he put her tail aflame.
“You can think you’re put on this world to do whatever you want, Joanna Lynn Menard, but you will not drive drunk in my town. It makes me sick that as soon as your aunt leaves you alone for a second, you could think about throwing all that trust away and endanger your life and the lives of your friends!” By then, he had given her at least ten spanks, and it didn’t seem to her that he sounded like he was anywhere near done.
She was right, and she couldn’t do anything about it. As soon as she put back one of her mitten-covered hands behind her in attempt to shield herself, she merely succeeded in getting her hand pinned to her lower back by his free hand.
“Please… Please stop! Stop this!” She was drunk, but well aware of how utterly humiliating it was to be chastised — not only like a small child, not only at eighteen years or age, but in front of two of her closest friends.
Those friends, by the way, were completely worthless to her at the moment. They obviously weren’t even considering any sort of intervention. They looked more like they had been hit by a bolt of lightning, and were probably praying that they weren’t next.
Jack’s hand was very large, very strong, and did a very efficient job at causing her a whole lot of pain. She felt that she was unable to deal with the sort of pain she was receiving; she didn’t think she had ever been in so much of it. She couldn’t in a thousand years compare it to any sunburn she had ever had or with any scratch she had ever received. This pain was unbearable… and shocking… and lingering.
In no time at all, she was reduced to tears; she apologized. She apologized for everything else she had ever done—every lie, every prank she ever committed, ever being drunk at all. She promised, in fact, never to do anything else wrong for the rest of her life. Halfway through this pathetic pile of apologies, as if there were magic words out there that could make this assault stop, her cries went from sharp screams to breathy sobs, complete with eyefuls of tears.
It didn’t deter Jack. As she sobbed, he carried out at least fifteen more smacks before he helped her rise off of his strong knees, where she modestly turned quickly away from him to pull up her pants gingerly over her scalding flesh, still feeling unable to stop crying, or to take a normal breath.
She finally made eye contact with him, although she dreaded doing so, and found that there was absolutely nothing apologetic or even sympathetic about his expression. His face was hard as stone with no signs of remorse to be found anywhere about him. “I want you to keep out of trouble, you hear?” he said shallowly.
Wiping a mitten across her face to clean her tears off, she nodded.
“All right. Say goodbye to your friends, get in the house and stay there until I get back. You and I are going to have a long talk about driving safely, little girl,” he informed, then watched as she turned to her friends, who were still stunned beyond words, with their faces as white as a sheet of paper…
Nearly five years later, the memory still made Jo’s cheeks blush. Though, she was in luck — neither Jane nor Mary ever told a soul about anything that had happened. They blamed not making it up to the slopes on a flat tire, and they had never brought it up with each other since.
That day, she went inside the house, locked the doors, and cried herself to sleep. Jack had come by, that she knew, because there was a blanket over her when she woke up. The next day he came by, hoping that she would go to church with him. She refused. She vowed she would never go anywhere with him again.
She fell deaf to his explanations of why she deserved the spanking, and even Maggie, who Jack confessed the whole matter to, openly told her that she backed him up. But she was already too hurt to ever forgive him.
Jo’s dream was over that day. Not so much because of the embarrassment he caused, or even from the spanking itself — but because the spanking gave her traumatic insight into how he must have seen her. She had been Jack’s project; his charity case. He obviously viewed himself as more of a babysitter of her than even a friend. How could he love someone he viewed to be a child? Certainly, she decided, not in the way she wanted to be loved by him.
She felt how hard her nipples were getting at the memory, how heated her loins were, and groaned. The most horrible thing about the spanking memory was how it aroused her, how it excited her.
“What the hell’s wrong with me?” she snapped at herself, banging her head in frustration against the shower. How could such a thing have aroused her so much for so long? How could she have Jack in authority over her, but still have him see her romantically, and not like some kid?
You can’t, her mind informed her harshly. You can’t have both. And you shouldn’t like a chauvinistic, narcissistic, woman-beater like Jack Fawkes anyway. What’s the matter with you? Are you a masochist? No? Then get with the program!
It was then Jo realized that she had been so in thought that she had shampooed twice.
She sighed. This man will be the death of me.