The snow was coming down hard,making it difficult to drive, Libby lent forward over the steering wheel of her Jeep, desperately peering out into her bleak surroundings and glad to be in a four by four. "Why the heck did I ever agree to this?" she muttered to herself. It had been her friend Rebecca's idea, "Get away for a long weekend," she'd told her in her broad Scottish accent, "try to de-stress and unwind, stay at my cottage near Loch Lomond, free of charge, just take your food and drink etc and chill out." Chill out? She'd be freezing her behind off at this rate!
But Libby admitted she needed a break,since handling a particularly difficult case at work she'd been feeling tired and run down, so the weekend away would do her good.
Thirty five year old Elizabeth Anne Burrows, Libby to her friends, was a doctor, she worked in paediatrics in Glasgow Royal Infirmary and as such had to deal with some emotional situations, but this latest one had been the first time she'd considered giving up medicine. She'd been assigned to a seven year old girl called Emily with chronic asthma, the child had seemed to be improving slowly, then suddenly, one evening, she had a bad attack and died. Everyone on the ward was mortified, but Libby had built up a close relationship with Emily and her family so it hit her hard, more worryingly it had left her feeling guilty which is why her head of department had insisted she take some leave.
On her drive to Loch Lomond she kept mulling over what had happened, the feelings of guilt flooded to the surface again just as her sat-nav politely issued new directions, she shook her head and tried to focus. "Where the heck is this place?" she sighed. It was only about fourteen miles from where she lived to Loch Lomond, but the cottage was way over on the far side, in the highlands.
When she'd left home, Glasgow itself was relatively snow free, but as she'd passed through Dumbarton the scenery became distinctly white, the road gritters had done their job marvellously so driving had been easy, until she'd reached the Balloch turnoff, there the gritters seemed to have run out of grit and she'd cranked on the four wheel drive to get her the rest of the way. Now she felt like she was in the middle of nowhere, civilisation seemed to be far behind her. Although it was no longer falling heavily, all she could see was snow covered trees and stone walls, even the sheep appeared to have made a run for it.
After fighting her way to the end of a very long and rough road frustration almost got the better of her and she was about to turn back, then the sat-nav calmly announced, "You have arrived at your destination!" "You must be joking!" retorted Libby, then she spotted it, just through the trees up ahead was a small cottage, as she drove a little nearer it reminded her of a Christmas card, idyllic looking with snow on the roof and smoke coming out of the chimney, there was a warm glow of light beaming from the little lattice windows, and the trees around it seemed to be hugging it tightly. She couldn't help smiling, then a thought occurred to her, Rebecca had said nothing about anyone else being there this weekend!
Libby parked the car a few hundred metres away from the cottage as she wasn't quite sure where the road ended, and she didn't want to end up parking in a flower bed. She got out of the car and looked around, there were no signs of another vehicle so maybe Rebecca had started a fire and left the lights on for her. She decided to leave her luggage until she'd made sure the cottage was secure, so she grabbed her handbag and made her way through the deep snow to the front door. The snow crunched under her feet and birds sang in the fir trees, then she heard flowing water and looked over to see a stream running right alongside the cottage, it all looked so pretty and serene. When she reached the front door she took out the key but was surprised to find the door unlocked. She was worried for a moment, thinking there might be a burglar inside, but then concluded it was unlikely a burglar would have stopped to light a fire and then put the lights on inside. Despite this she cautiously pushed the door open and peered around it, but she saw no one. She pushed the door shut and began to look around the room, it was large but cosy and warm thanks to the welcoming log fire that crackled and sparked in the stone hearth. It was a through room with a spacious kitchen at the back, and a wooden staircase sweeping down into the room on the right. The walls were a mixture of stone and wood panelling, and the low ceiling had several broad beams along it's length. She knew it wasn't as old as it looked, but it had all the feel of a quaint old cottage. As she stood admiring her surroundings a noise made her jump, it came from upstairs, someone was definitely up there.
"Hello?" she called.
There was no answer, but moments later she heard footsteps on the stairs, she instinctively grabbed the nearest thing to her, which happened to be a long handled umbrella, and gripped it tightly in readiness, her heart was pounding in her chest as she watched a figure wander down the stairs, first a pair of black walking boots came into view, then black jeans, and eventually a light grey ribbed jumper, just as Libby was preparing to swing the umbrella the figure spun around and smiled.
"Hi, you must be Libby!" he said with a soft American accent.
Libby stood open mouthed, stunned not only that he knew her name, but also that he was so devilishly handsome. He was tall and slim with black hair that was short but spiked up in the front, and he had the most gorgeous blue grey-eyes she'd ever seen.
"Um, I hope you weren't planning to hit me with that?" he pointed at the brandished umbrella.
"Uhh.. no.. well yes, I mean, I didn't know there was anyone else here." she put the weapon back in it's stand and fidgeted awkwardly.
He looked apologetic, "Oh, well I'm sorry that I scared you."
Libby swallowed hard. "That's OK."
"Didn't Becks tell you I was gonna be here?" the man moved closer.
"No," Libby shook her head, "I thought I had the place to myself for a few days."
"I see, well I hope you're not too disappointed, only she offered it to me a while back and this is the first chance I've had to take her up on the offer." he reached out a hand. "I'm Jack, Jack Mathews."
Libby shook his hand. "I'm.. oh you already know my name." she smiled softly. "Nice to meet you, Jack."
He looked her up and down, she was slim and pretty with long fair hair and piercing blue eyes, her dark blue jeans hugged her figure, and her short leather jacked accentuated the curve of her waist, all in all a very pleasant sight. "The pleasure is all mine."
Libby blushed at that comment, but then sighed and couldn't hide her disappointment."I suppose I'd better go then."
Jack frowned. "But you only just got here."
"Yeah but, well you were here first so I-"
"Hey there is room enough for two y'know."
Libby was taken aback by that remark, "But.. well we don't know each other and, I'd, I'd feel like I was intruding."
"Nonsense, like I said there's plenty of room and to be honest I'd enjoy the company."
She thought for a moment, not sure of what to do."
"I tell you what," Jack smiled and gently touched Libby's arm, "Why don't we have a coffee while you think it over?"
Libby returned his smile and nodded. "Okay thanks, I could do with a hot drink after the journey I've just had."
While the coffee was percolating Jack gave Libby a guided tour of the cottage, it didn't take long and the coffee was soon made, so they both sat at the kitchen table enjoying a hot drink and some chocolate digestives. They talked for ages about their pasts and what had brought them to where they are now. Jack told Libby all about growing up Joliet, Illinois, with his parents and two sisters, then coming over to Scotland to work as a land surveyor working for the Scottish forestry commission. Libby in turn told Jack all about growing up in Kingswinford, Birmingham with her mum and dad and older brother, and getting her degrees in medicine before moving to Glasgow to work as a doctor. They talked about hobbies, food, movies, and favourite places to visit, and before long they both felt like they'd known each other for years. They finally got around to discussing how they'd both met Rebecca, and Libby was surprised to discover Jack had got to know her via the Internet a few years back, they'd become good friends and when Jack moved over to Scotland to work they'd met up, but there had never been any romantic interests between them.
While they chatted it began to snow again, lightly at first, then heavier and heavier.
"Wow, that's some snow storm out there." Jack remarked with a frown.
"Hmm, good thing I got here when I did."
"So, are you gonna stay?" he asked hopefully.
"Yeah, I don't see why not," smiled Libby as she went to get her jacket. "I'll just go and get my things from the car."
"Uh, you can't go out in this!"
"It's only snow, I'll be fine."
"It isn't only snow, it's practically a blizzard out there. There was a weather warning earlier saying it was gonna last a couple hours."
Libby frowned and gazed out of the window.
"Where's your car?" asked Jack
"It's down the lane there." She pointed. "I didn't want to park too close to the cottage just in case I ran out of road."
Jack peered out into the snow storm. "Well you can't even see it at the moment, just wait 'til this eases up and I'll help you with your stuff."
"Thanks but I can manage," She pulled on her boots. "Besides it'll only take a few minutes, then I can get myself settled and relax the rest of the day."
He dropped his gaze."Now listen, Missy, if you go out in this weather I'll put you over my knee!"
Libby was speechless, a huge tingle surged deep inside her, her eyes widened and her breathing suddenly quickened. "You.. wouldn't dare."
"Wouldn't I?" Jack stepped towards her. "Wanna bet?"
She grinned at him. "Well maybe you would, and I appreciate your concern, but look, I'm a professional woman, I have degrees and qualifications, I make important decisions every day so if I decide to go out in the snow I do it!"
Jack shrugged and gestured towards the door, then watched Libby go out into the storm. He was concerned for her welfare of course and wanted to stop her, but he decided to let her have her own way and find out for herself just how bad it was out there. He'd met women like her before and knew the only way was to let them make mistakes, and learn from them.
Libby pulled up the collar on her jacket as soon as she got outside, but she immediately regretted leaving the cottage, it had turned much colder and the heavy snow was swirling wildly around her, making it difficult to see where she was going. But she couldn't give up now, she'd feel completely stupid after being so determined and sure of herself. She battled on and finally made it to her car. Libby opened the boot and heaved her suitcase out, she looked at the two large bags of groceries, but quickly decided it was best to make two journeys and come back for them later, so she locked the car and started making her way back. Unbeknown to Libby, Jack was watching her the whole time, making sure she was okay, he was sure she'd soon need his help, and he was right. Libby was abut half way between the car and the cottage when a strong gust of wind blew the snow right into her face, it stung her eyes so much that for a moment she was blinded, disorientation and fear overwhelmed her, and it was at that point she tripped over something beneath the snow and fell flat on her face. She cursed her own clumsiness and quickly began struggling to get up, as she got to her knees she looked up to see Jack reaching a hand out to her, she took it gratefully and he effortlessly pulled her to her feet, he then took the suitcase from her, offered her his arm, and helped her back to the cottage. They went inside accompanied by a liberal amount of snow, so Jack quickly closed the door behind them and locked it. He shrugged off his long, waxed coat and hung it on the coat stand, then turned to look at Libby.
"Please don't say I told you so." Libby muttered ruefully.
"I don't need to," he replied as he helped her off with her jacket, it was thick with snow, as was the rest of her.
She shook the snow from her head and stood looking totally bedraggled and sorry for herself, she was shivering violently now and was beginning to feel sick.
"You should think yourself really lucky though," Jack added mildly. "you could have hit your head when you fell, there could have been rocks or anything hidden under that snow."
All Libby could do was nod, and try to hold back the tears
"Come on, let's get you warmed up." said Jack as he wrapped a blanket around her. He gently led her upstairs, ran her a hot bath, then fetched her suitcase up to her room.
After enjoying a long soak Libby put on fresh underwear, jeans, and a thick jumper, then she pulled on a pair of fluffy slippers and headed downstairs with her wet things to dry them in front of the fire. Jack saw her coming and quickly placed a kitchen chair in front of the fire, he pushed up his sleeves and took her wet clothes, but instead of draping them over the back of the chair as Libby had expected, he put them on the draining board. She frowned at him, wondering what he was doing, he then walked over to her, took her firmly by the left arm, and led her over to the chair, in one swift movement he sat down and pulled her across his lap.
"What are you doing?" she squealed."
He held her firmly. "I told you what I'd do if you went out in that weather."
She struggled against him. "I thought you were joking!"
"Well then you need to understand I never say anything I don't mean." He hauled her further over his lap until her pert bottom was raised high in the air, then he gripped her right wrist to make sure there would be no intervention. "I talked about getting you warmed up, well I'm going to make sure your backside gets nice and toasty!"
She struggled again but he had her pinned, she wasn't going anywhere. "You can't do this to me!" she yelled.
"Oh I think I can," he replied casually as he began smacking her bottom. He started as he meant to go on, with firm fast slaps alternating from cheek to cheek, even through jeans he knew he'd get the message across, she would be taught a lesson.
Libby squealed and squirmed. "Let me go!"
"But.. I.. I'm not a little girl!"
"So why did you behave like one?" he asked, not even breaking rhythm.
"I.." she couldn't think of a good reason for her behaviour, he was right, she had been childish as well as foolish, and now she was being totally humiliated as a result of it. She continued struggling, but deep down knew she deserved what she was getting, but it still stung like the devil and her squeals of protest were testimony to that.
Jack continued to spank Libby hard and fast until he felt her start to relent, she eventually stopped kicking and squealing and her struggles were reduced to a squirm. He was suddenly aware of her sobbing and knew it was time to stop, he pulled her up off his lap and stood her upright. Libby couldn't look at him, she buried her face in her hands and cried. Jack stood up and wrapped his arms tightly around her, she fought him briefly, then gave in and sunk against him, allowing him to comfort her.
After a few minutes Jack sat Libby down on the sofa, she squirmed in her seat, trying to get comfortable, then sat to one side and folded her legs to take the pressure off her stinging behind. Jack poured two glasses of Vodka, dropped several ice cubes in each, and handed one to Libby, she sipped it slowly, still avoiding eye contact.
Jack settled himself down next to her and took a large swig of his drink, then he turned his head to stare right at her. "So, are you gonna be pissed at me for the rest of the weekend?"
Libby couldn't help laughing softly, she wanted to be angry with him, to lash out, read him the riot act, but instead she said, "No, I'm not pissed at you, I'm just embarrassed that's all, you know, because you..." her voice trailed off.
"Because I spanked your backside?"
"Yeah." She swirled the ice cubes around in her glass.
"Well, you deserved it!"
"I know. I still can't believe you did it though."
Jack raised his eye brows. "And I still can't believe you went outside in the middle of a blizzard!"
Suddenly guilt and emotion washed over her. "Wasn't one of the best decisions I've made lately was it."
"Not exactly, but no real harm was done."
"Not this time anyway." She managed to blurt out, right before bursting into tears.
"Hey, what's up?" Jack took her glass and placed it on the coffee table with his own, he then put his arm around Libby and pulled her close. She shook her head. "Uh, don't be shaking your head at me, Missy, now tell me what's wrong?"
Libby finally composed herself enough to tell Jack about the young girl who'd died, it took a while, but eventually she revealed her guilt at feeling responsible for the Emilys' death. Jack got a handful of tissues and Libby dried her tears and blew her nose, then Jack got her to take a few sips of her drink. He then sat facing her and took her hands in his. "Now you listen to me, that little girls death was not your fault, if it had you'd know about it and would probably been fired by now, but the authorities were more than happy with how you handled that case."
"Yeah I know but, well, I still feel I could have done better, you know, if I'd done something different then-"
"Hey, you did the best you could," Jack interrupted, "and it'll do you no good thinking you should have done anything differently."
Libby nodded. "Yeah, you're right, it's just been.." she suddenly frowned up at him. "How did you know the authorities were happy with everything?"
Jack shrugged. "I just guessed they must have been."
"No, no you seemed sure of it, as if someone had told you."
He sighed deeply. "Bit of giveaway huh?"
"Just a bit. So who told you?"
"Who do you think?"
"Rebecca!" Libby shook her head. "I might have known."
Jack smiled. "She was only looking out for you."
"I know but, well you might have told me before."
He shrugged. "Well I thought I'd leave it up to you to tell me all about it, if you wanted to."
Libby smiled at him and her eyes sparkled. "You're really sweet, you know that?"
"What, even though I slapped your butt?"
"Yes, even after all that, I still think you're sweet."
"Why thank you." Jack put on a look of smugness and let out a chuckle.
"But why did Rebecca tell you about what happened? I mean it isn't as though she knew we'd ever meet."
Jack raised his eyebrows again and smiled at her.
"Oh she didn't."
"Yes she did!"
"She arranged for us to be here at the same time?"
"Yep, she even drove me here!"
Libby nodded. "Oh, so that's why I didn't see a car when I arrived."
"That's right, she wanted to make sure I got here before you."
"I don't understand, why would she set me up like that?"
Jack lent forward and stared into her eyes. "Because she cares about you, and she thought me being here would help you deal with things, plus she knew I'd look after you."
Libby nodded. "Yeah that makes sense, she's such a lovely person, and she was right about you looking after me." She laughed softly. "Bet she never dreamed you end up, you know, spanking my bottom though."
Jack grinned devilishly. "Actually, she insisted on it!"
Not for the first time that day, Libby was speechless!