She stops, and I take a further step back. She wants to touch me. No. But if we do this, then I’ll know. She’ll know. We’re here much sooner than I thought we’d be. Can I do this? And in that moment I know there’s nothing I want more…There’s nothing that will satisfy the monster within me more. Before I can change my mind I grasp her arm and lead her upstairs to the playroom. At the door I stop. “I’ll show you how bad it can be, and you can make your own mind up. Are you ready for this?” She nods, her face set with the stubborn determination that I’ve come to know so well. So be it. I open the door, quickly grab a belt from the rack before she changes her mind, and lead her to the bench in the corner of the room. “Bend over the bench,” I order quietly. She does as she’s told, saying nothing. “We’re here because you said yes, Anastasia. And you ran from me. I am going to hit you six times, and you will count with me.” Still she says nothing. I fold the hem of her bathrobe over her back, revealing her beautiful naked behind. I run my palm over her buttocks and the top of her thighs, and a frisson runs through me. This is it. What I want. What I’ve been working toward. “I am doing this so that you remember not to run from me, and as exciting as it is, I never want you to run from me. And you rolled your eyes at me. You know how I feel about that.” I take a deep breath, savoring this moment, trying to steady my thundering heartbeat. I need this. This is what I do. And we’re finally here. She can do it. She’s never let me down yet. Holding her in place with one hand at the small of her back, I shake out the belt. I take another deep breath, focusing on the task in hand. She won’t run. She’s asked me. Then I wield it, striking her across both cheeks, hard. She cries out, in shock. But she’s not called out the number…or the safe word. “Count, Anastasia!” I demand. “One!” she shouts. Okay…no safe word. I hit her again. “Two!” she screams.