“Hand me the cane,” Marcus said. By the speed of his selection, it was obvious he had already decided what implement he would use on her. His voice was stern.

Octavia wondered if he was playing her, or was still genuinely disappointed in her for that outburst.

She sought out the object he requested with quivering fingers — an arm-length of rattan as thick as her middle finger. Still kneeling, she presented the cane to him, resting it on her two palms, holding it above her head. She cast her eyes down.

“Kiss it,” he commanded once he took it from her. He held it back out for her.

She complied. Her lips gently graced the cane at its center point.

“Forty strikes,” he said, “for your unslavelike demeanor. For speaking rashly and letting emotions, not logic, guide you. For causing me anguish on my trip, for letting me to think that you had left me. And, for retracting your words too late, only after I had already Contracted with this blameless other.

Octavia was tempted to whisper ‘sorry’. But she decided to keep silent. She only wanted to serve her master, and right now, taking his punishment was what he required of her.

“Of course there will be no gentle warm up,” he said.

She didn’t expect any. This was not going to be an erotic game slowly starting with a sensual buckskin flogger, growing in intensity as her body prepared itself for the next level, moving up to heavier floggers, and finally to crops and canes as a crescendo to the scene. No, not this time. Now he was going to give her forty sever blows across her bottom and thighs, leaving crisscrossed streaks which would last for days. They would burn her long after it was over. She wouldn’t be able to sit, wouldn’t be able to lie on her back, and even the simple pleasure of cloth against her skin would be a constant reminder of this punishment. He would surely deny her the nanotech treatments which would speed up the healing process. Rather, he would let her rely only on natural balms, oils, and lotions.