Someone was pounding on the door. Loudly. Wren rolled off the mattress on the floor and stumbled out of the bedroom. The doors of the Shoreside apartments were not meant for such treatment. It looked ready to collapse off the frame.

"The fuck you want?" Wren yelled, leaning on the door. She was miserably hung over and by the empty couch she knew Shane had never made it home last night. She was starting to wish she hadn't bothered. There was no answer, so she yanked the door open, ready to rip her visitor a new one. The words died on her lips. The man standing there obviously meant business and her first thought was cop. She tried to slam the door but he slapped his hand against it.

"Are you Aubrey Kelly?"

She froze. "Who the hell are you? I know my rights."

"I'm not a cop. Are you…"

She cut him off. "Wren. My name's Wren."

He raised his eyebrows and said, "We need to talk."

"I really don't think so," she said. Wren didn't want to talk; she wanted to get to the beach, find Shane and get the fuck away from this guy who was oozing authority all over her doorstep. He ignored her, pushing the door fully open and walking in.

"I didn't invite you in! Get the fuck out." Her voice quavered embarrassingly.

"Aubrey," he started.

"I'm not Aubrey!" she hissed.

His eyes got cool and butterflies lurched through her stomach.

"Let's get some things straight, shall we? You are not going to lie to me from this point on. I know who you are, so give up the pretense. In fact, I know quite a bit about you. Your parents sent me."

She stopped breathing. They had found her. She wasn't sure if she should be admitting her identity or trying to brazen out a lie.

"Who are you and what do you want?" she said.

"My name is Jacob." He sat on the couch. "I run a school in the city where I would like you to attend."

Maybe I should have read those letters, she thought. "I'm not going back, so you might as well just leave me be. If you drag me back there I'll just run away."

"I have no intention of dragging you back. I would prefer you come willingly, but I can, encourage you shall we say? Should it become necessary."

Wren laughed. Not the smartest move, but she couldn't help it. "And just exactly how do you plan on getting this to happen?" She snagged a cigarette out of a pack lying on the floor and lit it. "You're in my house, in my life, and I don't take kindly to encouragement."

He gazed at her for a moment, then took a different tactic. "You're not happy here. You miss your parents, your life." He didn't sound pushy or accusing, just understanding.

Unfair, Wren thought. It was too early in the morning for this. "Maybe," she shrugged, "but it's better living here than there."

"If you come with me, you wouldn't have to live there again. Mistakes can be fixed, Aubrey."

She leaned wearily against the still-open door and blew out a stream of smoke. It sounded nice, but then most people thought being rich sounded nice. Most things were not exactly what they seemed. Many weren't even close.

"Not fucking likely," she said.

"It's really not a choice, Aubrey. You're going to have to go."

"And just how do you think you're going to convince me? I'm not interested," she pointed out.

"We're going to outline some basic rules and go from there."

She raised one eyebrow and told him exactly where he could shove his rules.

"You want to obey these rules."

"And why would I want to do that?"

He leaned back against the couch and leisurely crossed his legs. "When you break them I'm going to spank you. You won't like it."

She burst out laughing. "Be serious. What century do you think you're living in?"

"Oh yes I can. And I will. You're underage and your parents have consented for you. And should that fail to dissuade you…" He drew a slender black object out of his briefcase. It was about a foot and a half long and tapered from a half inch diameter to about a quarter of an inch and flexed easily under his hands.

She shifted, wondering where the hell her roommate was. Since she was on her own for the foreseeable future she figured it was best to play along. She let him go over his rules, and honestly they weren't so bad. Be respectful. No problem for her, really. Don't lie. Well, that might be a little problem. No swearing, that would be hard. And no more robbing the tourists. That would be nearly impossible.

Hardest of all though was no more partying with Shane and the guys. She gritted her teeth, but agreed, protesting a little for form, but not enough to make him think she was going to try to get around him. If he thought she was afraid of his threat, he would think she wouldn't risk breaking his rules.

"Whose the guy on the couch?" Shane asked with interest. As much interest as she ever mustered up for guys. It was lucky that she had found Wren when the girl arrived on the beach. They had briefly contemplated an affair, discarded the idea and become friends. Which was lucky for both of them, really. Friends were harder to come by than lovers.

"He's the guy from the school I told you about."

"And he's sleeping on our couch? No offense, but I'm staying on the beach again tonight."

"Give me a minute and I'll come with you."

"Wren, seriously? I mean, I don't know him and he's devastatingly handsome and all, but I know business when I see it."

"I'm grabbing my cigarettes."

"Alright, darling. You know it's fine with me."

Wren walked carefully on bare feet to the bedroom and snagged her cigarettes and a t-shirt to go over her favourite blue bikini. When she returned to the other room Jacob was leaning against the open door.

"Going somewhere?" he asked softly.

"Goddammit!" Wren hissed in sudden rage . "Go to hell!" She whirled away from the door, slammed into the bedroom and screamed furiously. Then she pulled a sandal from under the bed, put in on her foot and kicked the window as hard as she could. A searing pain shot up from her ankle, but the window shattered with a satisfying crash.

"Aubrey," Jacob yelled and she quickly kicked the rest of the glass from the frame and tried to squirm out.

The bedroom door burst open and Jacob grabbed the ankle that was still inside and squeezed. "Don't move," he growled.

He lifted her carefully back inside, then knelt, seizing the slippery edge of a piece of glass that was embedded in her leg. She winced, but held still, the rush of temper leaving as quickly as it had come.

"Sorry," she muttered and watched as his eyebrow shot up.

He didn't take his eyes off what he was doing and replied, "That's not going to save you now."

She jerked her leg back and snapped, "Fine! Don't accept my apology! I take it back."

Jacob stood, grabbed her wrist in his left hand and brought his right down on her butt with a resounding whack. She yelled, rising up on her toes.

"Keep it up," Jacob said, "and you'll be one sorry girl."

Wren shot him a furious look, which he ignored. He hauled her out to the living room, where Shane had prudently disappeared, and sat on the couch. She stopped as far back as the hand on her wrist would allow and stared stonily at the wall.

"Want to tell me what that was all about?" Jacob said.

"Not really."

"Well then I expect we should just move on to the punishment stage."

Wren shot him a glare, tears springing to her eyes. "I hate you," she said.

"I'm sorry you feel that way," Jacob replied calmly and giving her arm a quick jerk, pulled her over his knee.

She cursed her slender frame and lack of muscle as she struggled without result. Her red curls cascaded to the floor and stuck to her damp cheeks as she fought to free herself. She growled when Jacob freed her of her swimsuit bottoms and proceeded to spank her thoroughly. Her threats and curses made no difference and soon she was gasping for breath and fighting the agony of a hand falling on a very red backside.

Jacob paused and said, "Now. Would you like to tell me exactly what you thought you were doing?"

Wren sobbed in fury. "I don't know," she hitched out. "If you're so goddamn smart, why don't you tell me?"

"I think you wanted to see if I would really spank you, or if it was just an empty threat," Jacob said.

"You think you know everything," she hissed. "You don't."

"Then enlighten me."

"I don't know why I do things," she said. "I just do them."

"Ah," he said, with far too much understanding.

"I was happy before you came," she sobbed.

"Were you?"

"I wasn't unhappy."

Jacob sighed and helped her to her feet. She jerked her swimsuit back up and glared at Jacob through her tears.

"Wren, come here," he said. When she didn't move he gave her a pointed look and said, "Now, please." She stepped forward slowly and he patted the couch beside him.

"Jerk," she said with a reluctant laugh and sat carefully.

"Wren, I want to help you. I want to make this as easy for you as possible. But if you persist with this kind of behaviour, I will simply take you out of here. So I would like you to tell me if you can try a bit harder to follow the rules."

Put like that, she thought, what answer did he expect her to give? "I promise to try," she said, knowing she had been manipulated by an expert. And trying didn't necessarily mean succeeding.

Wren started putting some effort into following the rules. Or at least appearing she was. She had no doubt he realized what was going on, but if he wasn't going to complain, she wasn't going to do more than keep up appearances. She woke Saturday to an empty apartment. Shane had been avoiding it lately and Wren couldn't blame her. She had no idea where her keeper was so she went out to the beaches to find her friend. She located Shane lying on a blanket on the top of a dune with four guys. They were sitting about a foot away from the drop into the water, which was packed on such a hot day. Since Wren had no desire to swim, she collapsed next to Shane who shot up, hugged her friend and exclaimed, "Got news."

"What?" she replied warily. Sometimes Shane's news wasn't all that great.

"Joey asked for both of us to come to his party tonight!" Shane lit a joint and passed it to her stressed out friend.

Wren rolled onto her back and took a hit. She had been trying to get into one of his parties for the last year. His parties were very A-list and almost impossible to get an invitation to. Shane could get invited anywhere. Wren sighed. She knew there was no way she could get around her guard dog for something like that. But still....

"When is it?" she asked, coughing. "Jesus, this is good." She passed the joint back.

"Ten o'clock," Shane began, then muttered, "Shit."

"Hmmm?" Wren asked, peeking into the bright sun. And focusing on Jacob. Her stomach fell and she leapt up. Everyone froze, then Wren dove off the dune into the water. She popped up a couple hundred yards down the beach, waded out, and ran.

She was completely humiliated. She could hear him yelling after her, but if she stopped, everyone would know it was her. Plus, she was a bit afraid of him. What if spanked her in front of all those people? She ran faster. If she could make it back to the apartment, she could lock the door. She'd be okay. She hoped.

"Aubrey! Stop right now!"

She pretended she didn't hear him. Although his voice was so loud the entire beach must have heard him. She giggled. It seemed like half the beach had froze, instinctively responding to all the authority in that voice. It certainly made her want to stop, to turn around, to do whatever he asked. She was torn. Despite the fact that without the parties and the fun, the beach was pretty boring, she really wasn't ready to just pick up and leave. And what about Shane? She couldn't just leave her best friend.

She saw a palm tree ahead and debated her options. She could just sit under it and look casual, no one would know she was waiting for him to come collect her and spank her like a child. Then again... the apartment was really close.

She reached her door, fumbled with the lock and had just sighed in relief when she felt his hand close over hers on the key.

She felt his body up the line of her back and he said softly, "You are in a lot of trouble, Aubrey."

Wren tried to turn and face him, but he refused to let her hand go. She leaned her head against the door and sobbed helplessly. "I'm so sorry! I couldn't help it!"

"You couldn't help but ignore me and make me chase you down the entire beach?"

"No, I can't help being me! I want to go to parties. I miss my friends! I miss my life! What do you want from me?"

"How do you think that running away from me makes it better?"

"I don't know; I panicked. I didn't know what to do."

"Oh, Aubrey," he sighed. "I'm going to open this door and you're going to stand in the corner of the apartment and think about the rules and why they are important. Don't talk. I have a phone call to make, then I'll come get you."

"Fine," she muttered.

He turned the door handle and she scampered quickly in, heading for the nearest corner. She studied the cracks in the wall and listened to Jacob moving around the room behind her. He spoke quietly on the phone and she couldn't decide if she wanted him to hurry and finish so she could leave the corner, or if she wanted him to take his time. Embarrassment crept into her throat, threatening to overwhelm her. Her breath quickened as she began to panic and think irrational thoughts of escape.

"Please," she whispered, so quiet it seemed she hadn't spoken out loud. "Please, oh, please." She spoke louder, stronger, until she was sobbing it helplessly to the dark wood trim in the corner. He came up and tugged her out of the corner into his arms. When she tried to pull away he held tight and rocked her until her sobs slowly shuddered to a halt.

"Let's get this over with," he said, voice firm, but kind and suddenly everything seemed more bearable.

She followed him to the kitchen, eyes flicking from the whip laid out to his face. He leaned against the table and she stumbled into a chair. She watched him tidily roll the sleeves of his shirt back and became nervous all over again.

"Aubrey," he said.

"Wren," she replied in a whisper.

"Wren, look at me."

She shook her head and said, "I can't."

He tipped her chin up with a finger. "Now. Why are we here?"

She squirmed. "Because I didn't listen to you?" Tears were clogging her throat and she sniffled sadly at her predicament.

"And?"

"Umm, and I ran away from you?"

"Wren, stop stalling."

"And I was talking about going to a party?"

"The marijuana, Wren."

"I only had a little bit!" He raised his eyebrows, making her squirm. "It's not that big of a deal," she muttered.

"It is a big deal. Not only because it's bad for you. It's also illegal. And against the rules we agreed on."

"I agreed to this?"

"Yes, you did. Stand up."

She groaned and searched his face, hoping for a last-minute reprieve. He held out his hand silently. She began to reach out, but the door burst open.

She snatched her hand back and thought, saved! Then she realized exactly how they looked and wasn't so sure company was a good idea. Jacob ignored the door and simply said, "I'm waiting."

"Umm..." she stuttered. She glanced up and saw Shane and a couple of the guys staring at them.

Shane started suddenly, shoving the guys back outside and Wren closed her eyes in mortification. Shane stalked around the couch into the kitchen and glared at Jacob.

"Wren," she said. "Do you need help?"

Wren paused, realizing that with the assistance of the guys outside Shane could rescue her. She stared between the two of them, torn.

"I'm okay," she finally said to her friend. Jacob nodded, with a ghost of a smile on his face.

Shane looked back and forth between them and said, "No, I don't really think you are."

Jacob turned his gaze to her and said firmly, "She's going to be fine Shane, you go on and give us some time."

"I wasn't planning on coming back tonight, but I can, Wren…" She trailed off and Wren shook her head in misery.

"No, don't bother. I'll be okay."

Shane shrugged, not really believing her, but not knowing what else to do and slipped back out the door.

Wren grinned when she heard the guys asking questions and Shane telling them exactly where they could shove their nosiness. She jolted back to her own predicament when Jacob pulled her to her feet.

"Look, um..."

"Drop your pants and bend over the table."

"What?"

"Wren, do it."

Her breath shuddered nervously out and she shoved her swimsuit bottoms down, leaning over to place her palms on the table.

"I'm really sorry," she tried.

"I'm going to make sure of that."

He picked up the slender black crop whip from the table and snapped it against the lower curves of her butt. She shrieked at the sudden line of fire and reached back. He grabbed her hand and tucked it into the curve of her back and smacked her harder.

"Oww! Wait!"

"Wren. You broke the rules. There are consequences."

"What if someone hears!"

"Well, all the more reason to go back to the school with me. You wouldn't have to worry about that anymore."

"I'll yell for help!"

He laughed softly. "I think you have more pride than that. Anyway, your parents already signed you over to my care. The only other option is a juvenile detainment facility."

Wren felt her breath catch in her throat at that. It was true, she knew. Her parents wished her well, but they wished her well from a comfortable distance. That hurt more than anything Jacob could do. She lowered her face to her arm as a tear escaped.

"Fuck," she hissed.

"Language, Wren."

"Sorry."

He took pity on her and wrapped it up. She knew it was pity, but it still hurt and she was grateful.

When Wren awoke she took a screaming hot shower, shrieking when the water hit her sore butt and thighs. After she emerged she dried her hair and pulled a clean t-shirt on that was long enough to reach her knees. There was no way she was climbing into jeans. When she exited the room, Jacob was in the kitchen sitting at the table in the late afternoon sunlight.

He smiled. "Would you like a sandwich? I ordered out while you were asleep."

Wren nodded, feeling shy.

"Are you still angry?" Jacob asked, interest in his voice.

"No. I don't know. I don't know what to say. I don't know what I feel." She shrugged miserably.

Jacob came to lean against the table. "Wren. Look at me."

She shook her head, resting her forehead on the table.

"Wren. I know this isn't easy for you. It's not bad that you feel unsure. You are trying to make a lot of hard decisions and whether or not you feel it – you are still a child."

"I'm not!" she protested, looking up.

"You're fifteen," he said dryly. "That's not an adult in any world."

"It feels like an adult from here."

Wren woke early the next morning and by long habit pulled on a black bikini she found in a corner, followed by torn jeans that were under the bed. She winced, painfully recalling the previous afternoon before yawning and heading to the kitchen to see if there was any chance of breakfast.

Jacob was still sleeping on the couch, giving Wren a chance to study him unobserved. He was tall with long lean muscles and dark hair that fell messily across the sweatshirt he was currently using as a pillow. She knew the eyes, when he opened them, would be a deep blue. Overall, it wasn't a bad package, and if she had not been such a total lesbian, and had he not been so intimidating, she might have thought about making a play for him. As it was, she had no desire to play anything with him.

There was, of course, nothing to be found in the kitchen, so she settled with a can of diet Coke and eased the door open. She slipped down to the beach and walked, the sky still pink with new light. Her ass stung where it rubbed against her jeans so she stripped them off and dove into the ocean. When she popped up Shane was waving from shore, so she swam lazily over.

"Morning."

"Morning," Shane said back. "I see the big, bad wolf didn't eat you up then."

Wren laughed and flung herself down on the warm sand.

Shane's eyebrows shot up. "Nice ass."

Wren squeaked and rolled over. She shaded her eyes and peered up at her friend.

"Hell," Shane muttered and sat.

"I seem to have a problem," Wren said.

"You seem to have a lot of problems."

"Yes, well. Yes. He wants me to go back with him and honestly I don't know how to get rid of him."

"Do you want to go with him?" Shane asked with interest.

"No. Yes. I don't know."

Shane stretched. "The beach is getting rather boring."

"You mean..." Wren sat and leaned over her friend. "You'd come with me?"

"Of course. I'm quite sure my parents will cough up the funds for some hoity-toity school. Especially one with dorms." She grinned. "Especially one where I'll have to be well-behaved and respectful."

Wren giggled. "Do you want to go, though?"

Shane shrugged. "It makes no difference to me." She pulled a joint out of her pocket and lit it, passing it to her friend. "We'll figure it out."

When Jacob managed to find Wren she and Shane were tucked into the throngs of people crowding the beach. They were both sound asleep. He sighed and sat in the sand next to them.

Shane's eyes snapped open, registered him and instantly grew guarded. "See, she's fine. Didn't run away. Didn't do anything amazingly stupid without your good judgment guiding her."

"And what if your good judgment wasn't guiding her? Would she do something amazingly stupid then?"

Shane grinned. "Probably." She sat up. "If you take her, you'll have to take me too, you know?"

"Yes," Jacob said, "I know. We have room."

"I don't know if my parents will pay," she admitted. "We've had a falling out."

"It doesn't matter. I'll take you anyway."

"Hmph. You're not half as bad as you pretend to be."

"Shane, I'd rather not be bad at all."

Shane brushed the sand away from the marks on Wren. "I'd rather you weren't either."

Jacob tilted his head. "And yet you still want to come to my school."

Shane lay back and closed her eyes. "You look like you could use a challenge."

When Wren woke the sun was nearly overhead and she was officially burnt. No matter how may times she was in the sun, she never managed to tan. Shane grew darker and darker brown, but she just burnt, peeled, and grew more freckles. She stumbled up, yawning and pulled her jeans on. Shane had disappeared – no surprise there – so she wandered back towards the apartment. She was thirsty and afraid that she wasn't really ready to leave the beach.

She stepped gratefully into the shade of her apartment and froze. Shane was on the couch, dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, her backpack sitting at her feet. Jacob was leaning against the wall, speaking in a low voice. They both looked up as she stepped through the door.

"Pack up, girl," Shane said. "We're outta here."

"Wait.... now? I'm not ready."

"Ready as you'll ever be, dahlin. And you'll just stress until we go. So let's do it."

Wren stepped into the bedroom and closed the door. Shane's things were already gone. What was left looked forlorn lying in the corners of the room. She grabbed her few belongings and shoved them and a good amount of sand into her bag. She pulled a Coldplay t-shirt over her head and grabbed her toothbrush off the windowsill. After a quick glance around it was apparent there was nothing left, so she threw her bag over her shoulder and wrenched the door open.

"I'm ready."

Shane grinned. "Well, isn't this exciting."

"My God," Jacob muttered and went to start the car.