“Then I’m fucked because I can’t do it.”
My patience was running very thin. It had been a hell of a day. We’d had to deal with a sick cow in the pouring rain. Our feed hadn’t been delivered when it was supposed to be, and I had to send Riley and Casey to the supplier. And there was a leak in the barn. Riley had gotten progressively more antsy all day. Seeing the number of problems that could come up all at once probably made him realize just how big a job running this ranch was, but that didn’t mean he could just stop trying.
Do you really think that’s all this is?
I hated my conscience sometimes. It had been days since we’d kissed and he’d jerked off in front of me while he was drunk. We’d yet to talk about it even though I’d promised him we would. The first night, we hadn’t been able to risk any private time and things had been crazy since then, but I could have made time. I just hadn’t, and that wasn’t fair.
“Do you want to do this or not, Riley? Because if you don’t, then I’m done. You can go right to your father’s office and tell him you’d rather go work for the asshole who runs his Houston office than pay attention to me and put in some effort here.”
“I’m not working for my father.”
“Then you’re either going to have to figure out how to support yourself without any of his help, or you’re going to learn what I’m teaching you.”
He dropped his head and speared his hands through his hair. “I’m just not sure I can. Maybe I really am as stupid as my father thinks I am.”
No. I was not going to listen to that. “Look at me, Riley.”
I waited until he did before I continued. “I’m making a rule right now, and I expect it to be obeyed.”
His gaze slid away from mine again. “Fine. Whatever. I just… I really don’t know if I can do this.”
“I get that it’s frustrating. It would be ideal for us to have a lot more time, but we don’t, and you putting yourself down is only making it worse. From now on, you’re not allowed to say ‘I can’t’ anymore. You don’t get to tell me you’re stupid or incapable or any other negative thing about yourself.”
Riley turned back to me. At least now there was challenge in his eyes instead of defeat. “What are you going to do about it if I do?”
I should’ve told him I’d assign him some extra chores or refuse to teach him anymore or really anything that wouldn’t lead to my hand on his bare ass, but I was tired of fighting the tension between us. “Are you sure you want to find out?”
His eyes widened. “What?”
“You spent most of the afternoon putting yourself down and keeping us from making progress. You need to be punished for that. Do you think you can handle it?”
He stared at me. The air between us felt too thick to breathe. “Do you mean…? You’re really going to…?”
“You asked me the other day if I was going to spank you when you defied me.”
I watched his throat work as he swallowed. “Yeah, but I didn’t think you would.”
“That’s one thing you need to learn about me right now. Don’t challenge me if you’re not prepared to take the consequences. If you want someone to discipline you the way you need to be disciplined, if you want someone to take care of you, to teach you how to take care of yourself, how to feel better about yourself, then I’ll do that for you. If that’s not what you want, we’ll find another way to make this work, or you can tell me right now that you’re done.”
Riley’s cheeks were deeply pink. He sank his teeth into his lower lip and looked up at me through his lashes. He looked so damn young, so uncertain, and I started to question myself all over again, but then he said, “I want that. All of that.”
“Then explain what you’ve learned from this spreadsheet. After dinner, we’ll go back to my cabin.”
His mouth dropped open. “You think I can explain this now? I was already having trouble focusing, and now you… And I’m…” He reached down and adjusted himself.
“Part of running a ranch is learning how to focus on one thing when there are a million others going on. Tell me about the spreadsheet, boy.”
“Yes, Daddy.” The cheeky grin he gave me begged for a spanking even if he hadn’t already earned one.
“If you’re going to call me that, you’d better take it seriously. You do what I say. You accept that I know what’s best for you, and you commit to being exclusively mine while you’re here.”