The other side of the bed was empty. Zain knew it before he fully awoke. He opened his eyes, sat up, and stretched, yawning hugely. Through the window, the gray, pre-dawn sky hung over the ocean, and silhouetted against both of them, the twisted limbs of Seb’s favorite climbing tree cradled his Brat.
Really, babe? he thought, amused. The sliding glass door onto the lanai wasn’t even closed all the way. At least give me a challenge.
Not bothering to pull anything else on over his briefs, he padded outside barefoot. They both kept flip-flops on the back steps for beach walks. Seb’s were still there. He picked them up before slipping his own on, and then walked down to the seawall.
“Y’know, getting up early to watch the sunrise is a lot more romantic when you actually invite your partner along.”
Seb was in the bottom branches of the tree, his bare feet dangling near Zain’s shoulder. He started to pull them up, but Zain caught his left leg by the ankle and slid one of the sandals onto him.
“That’s the wrong foot,” Seb said, his voice barely audible over the waves lapping against the rocks.
Zain grinned upward. “Give me your other one, then.”
Sighing, he relinquished it, in hopes that would appease him.
Both soles were covered in dirt and bits of bark. Zain brushed them off before putting the sandals on correctly, and then held his arms in the air. “Seb Crews, c’mon down, you’re the next contestant on The Price is Right!”
Without so much as a hint of an eyeroll, Seb dropped neatly into his hold. See? There’s nothing to worry about.
Zain snorted softly in his ear, and rather than lowering him the rest of the way to the grass, he took two steps backward, sat down on the seawall, and turned him straight over his lap.
“That ‘I’m so well-behaved, please don’t notice me’ act has never worked on me, babe,” he said, like they were having a normal conversation that didn’t involve him vigorously dusting off the seat of his partner’s yoga pants. “Just FYI.”
The sting made Seb’s breath catch in his throat, so he couldn’t answer. He gritted his teeth together and locked his knees, becoming one long, rigid line.
After about a minute, Zain paused with his palm cupping the undercurve of his Brat’s bottom. Should’ve grabbed the hairbrush, he thought, ruefully. At this rate, they’d be out here all morning. He could carry him inside, but then he’d have to start over again. Much better to keep the momentum going somehow.
When he didn’t spank for a few seconds, Seb shifted experimentally.
“No, we’re not done,” Zain told him, in an almost absentminded tone. “I’m just…. Ah-ha! Let me see your foot.”
What? Why? He frowned over his shoulder, his toes still on the ground, until Zain smiled and swatted hard on his upper thigh. It was impossible not to kick in an attempt to protect the sensitive area.
Quick as lightning, Zain plucked the slipper off his foot and then brought it down against his own hip with an astonishingly loud crack. “Ow! Yeah, that’ll work.”
Seb’s mouth dropped open. He had to be kidding.
But it was no joke. The next crack rang out as the sole of the shoe connected with his rear end, and he yelped. It almost felt like the bath brush, only wider. Those weren’t cheap flip-flops you wore through and tossed after a summer. They were made of thick, sturdy foam, built to last, and he had to shove his hand into his mouth to muffle his cries after only two smacks.
Zain stopped again. “Wrist, habibi. Give it here.”
With great reluctance, he twisted his arm behind his back and let it be pinned.
“Now try to relax, hmm?”
He ignored Seb’s incredulous huff and laid down eight more swats, slowly, since he wasn’t as familiar with the implement as he would’ve liked to be. That was all it took to shake the first sobs loose. Dropping the slipper on the ground, he finished off with his hand, and only when he heard unrestrained weeping did he help his fiancé upright, into his embrace.
That afternoon, the sandals were mysteriously replaced with a lightweight, dollar-store pair. Even under threat of tickling, Seb disavowed all responsibility.