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“Miss Chambers, I am sorely tempted to turn you over my knee and apply my hand to your posterior in such a way it would leave you no doubt as to how foolish I find your reckless behavior!”

Amanda glared at the man from her inelegant position on the ground, her green eyes glittering with pure temper and malice.  The horse she had been riding balked at the last minute, coming to an abrupt stop before the stone fence Amanda was intent on jumping, and she had flown over the mare’s head to land with a jolt on the wet ground.  “Are you going to help me up, or are you going to stand there spouting drivel, Mr. Thorne?”

“It was extremely dangerous for you to attempt that jump,” he stated, making no move to take the muddied hand she held outstretched toward him.

“You are not my father, Mr. Thorne,” her voice was full of contempt.  “If you recall, I told you I did not wish your company today.  Either help me up, or get on your mount and leave me in peace to make my way home!”

“Are you injured?” he knelt beside her and started examining her closely for any sign of broken bones.  He took the proffered arm and his strong fingers moved over the dirty sleeve of her ruined riding jacket.  Her skirt was ruined, too, and her boots would take a lot of hard work to make them usable again.

“Stop that!” Amanda jerked her arm free of his grasp.  “I have had enough of you for one day, Mr. Thorne.  You may go now.”

“I am not a servant to be dismissed, Miss Chambers,” the expression in his dark eyes was full of disapproval.  “Your manners are appalling, and it is apparent that your Father has neglected his duty toward you.”

“How dare you speak ill of my Father?” she gasped, thoroughly outraged.  “It is you who brings out my worst.  I do not like you, Mr. Thorne.  I do not wish to spend time with you, and I fully intend to tell my Father to stop encouraging your attention!  Now go away and leave me to myself!” She picked up her small riding whip and lashed out at the infuriating Robert Thorne, wishing she had never set eyes upon their new neighbor. 

“Do NOT strike me again, Miss Chambers,” Robert warned her mere seconds before the small whip caught him again, across his cheek this time.  Without giving the matter conscious thought, he captured her wrist with his left hand and wrenched the whip from her grasp with his right hand.  In the next instant he pulled her from her position on the wet grass to land across his bent knee and then he started spanking her with the whip through her wet clothing!  “This is a lesson sorely needed, young lady,” he announced, feeling no remorse at all for his actions.  The welt on his cheek was stinging furiously, and he was going to make sure she had a few welts of her own! 

“Let me go!” she screamed.  “Let me go right now!”  He didn’t listen to her and continued to strike her with the small whip across her derriere.  The sting was unbearable!  “Owwww!” she howled.  “Stop this instant!  I’ll have my Father take a horsewhip to you!” she threatened.

“Your comments are only prolonging this chastisement, Miss Chambers,” he said solemnly.  “I would think a clever girl such as yourself would realize that a sincere apology would be in order.”

“I would think even a bully like you would realize that you are going to be dead when I tell Father about this!” she retorted. 

“Perhaps your Father will shake my hand and congratulate me for taking his bratty daughter in hand…?” Robert said calmly, and he didn’t stop spanking her even when he saw a rider approaching.  Perhaps it was time Matthew Chambers heard about his daughter’s less than perfect behavior.

“I hate you!  I hate you!” Amanda screamed at the man who was bringing her to the point of tears.  She would never ever forgive him if he made her cry!  “I am not going to apologize, either!” she added, bracing herself for more fiery strokes from the riding whip she vowed to throw away the first chance she got!  “Let me go, you bastard!”

“Your language is inexcusable, little girl,” Robert spanked even harder, determined to give her a reason to regret her impulsive behavior.  He was well aware that her Father was fast approaching and he increased the tempo and the strength behind the punishment.  Miss Chambers was going to have ample reason to recall this spanking when she attempted to sit down over the next few days.

“What is the meaning of this?” Matthew Chambers dismounted and ran over to pull his precious child off of Robert Thorne’s knee.  “Amanda, honey, are you all right?” he asked solicitously, his green eyes watching the younger man who dared to strike his daughter.

“He spanked me with my own riding whip, Father… and after I took a spill from Glimmer!” she accused, her eyes overflowing with tears.  “I am so humiliated… and in pain, Father!” she sniffled.

“You’d better have a damn good reason for tanning my girl, Thorne,” Matthew Chambers was about as angry as he’d ever been in his entire life.

“She tried to force her mount to jump, sir, and she was thrown.  When I attempted to check her for injuries, she struck me twice with her riding whip,” he turned his face to permit the other man to see the fiery red welt on his cheek.  “I felt justified in returning the favor.”  He watched as Matt’s green eyes narrowed.

“Didn’t I tell you not to jump that mare, daughter?” Matt Chambers asked.

“I forgot, Father,” she proclaimed her innocence.

“Why did you lay your whip on the man for tryin’ to help you?” Matt continued his questions.

“He touched me!” she declared in indignation.

“To see if you broke your fool neck!” the man said in exasperation.

“Father!  You should shoot him dead for mistreating me!” Amanda declared.  Her Father wasn’t behaving at all has she had predicted he would.

“You did the mistreating, Amanda.  You mistreated that little mare I gave you.  You mistreated Rob when all he done was try to help you.  You earned that tanning, and if you give me any more of your sass, you’ll get another tanning when I get you home.”

“Father!”

“And that is another thing, girl.  I’m your Papa, and you can stop with the highfalutin’ ‘Father’.  I don’t like it and never have, and it stops now.  Hear me?”

“I wish I had stayed in Boston!” she announced, and then flounced off, heading for the ranch house.

“She did not mean that, sir,” Robert said when he was sure the feisty redhead couldn’t hear him.  “Miss Chambers is thoroughly angry with me right now and merely shifting that anger to your shoulders instead of mine.”

“Her Mama spoiled her, son.  Isabel left me when Mandy was only three and I only saw her two times in the next fourteen years.  When Isabel died, I brought my girl home, and the last two years have been trying at times.  She’s spoiled rotten, but this is the first time she’s actually struck someone.  I’m real sorry about that.”

“I’ve had worse, Mr. Chambers,” Robert smiled, understanding the situation a bit better.

“Call me Matt, Rob.  Folks are a heap more friendly out here than they are in England; no offense.”

“None taken.  Thank you, Matt,” Robert acknowledged.

“I’d best go and get that stubborn girl of mine and haul her on home.  Thanks for tryin’ to help her, son.  Come on over to supper anytime, now.”

“I will do that,” Robert promised, watching the man ride off in the direction that Amanda stomped.  The redhead was certainly a handful, but now that he knew Matt Chambers didn’t actually raise the little hothead it made things a lot clearer.  He would give her a few days to calm down and then pay the Circle C Ranch a visit.  One thing was certain, Miss Amanda Chambers did not bore him in the least.

********************

Amanda was seething when her parent rode up beside her.  “Come on, girl.  I’ll give you a ride back to the house.  I was scared when Glimmer came back by herself.”

“I cannot believe you permitted Robert Thorne to get away with beating me!” Amanda swiped the tears from her cheeks with the back of her hands.

“You’re lucky that all he did was set your fanny on fire, Mandy.  You earned a spankin’.  Now come here so I can take you up in front of me and get you home and out of those wet clothes.  I don’t want you getting sick,” he growled.

Amanda’s feet were hurting and she was shivering in the disgustingly wet riding habit.  As much as she wanted to tell her parent to leave her alone she didn’t quite dare.  It was a good five miles back to the house and her feet would be nothing but blisters if she insisted upon walking.  She permitted her Father to haul her up in front of him, but refused to make conversation. 

After one or two attempts, Matt gave up, and she was certain the silence suited him much better than trying to have a conversation with her.  At the ranch, he put her on her feet, but when Amanda turned toward the house, he took her arm and led her into the barn.  “You need to tend to Glimmer, young lady.  If she is injured, I’ll take a strap to you myself.  Why in hell would you try to jump a skittish mare after I told you it wasn’t safe?  I expected better of you, girl.”

“I wanted to get away from Robert Thorne.  I told him I didn’t want him tagging along with me, and he refused to listen.  The fastest way to rid myself of his presence was to jump the fence.”

“You’re lucky you didn’t break your fool neck,” Matt growled.  “Hey, Whitey,” he spoke to the man who was already tending to Glimmer.  “Is the mare hurt?” he asked.

“No, sir,” the young cowboy answered respectfully.  “Just doesn’t like jumpin’,” he added with a meaningful look for Amanda.”

“See, no harm done,” Amanda gave Matt a meaningful look and then turned on her heel to head for the house.

“No harm done this time, but that don’t mean you didn’t disobey me and unseat yourself.  You clean out Glimmer’s stall, Mandy, and see her brushed down and cared for proper.  Once Whitey is satisfied you’re done, you can tend to yourself.  Boy, don’t you dare let this girl talk you into doing the work for her.  She needs to learn the proper way to care for her mare… and to listen to her Papa.”  Matt left the barn, ignoring the shocked expression on his daughter’s face.

Amanda couldn’t believe her Father was making her muck stalls like a hired hand!  It wasn’t fair, and she wasn’t going to do it, either!  She headed for the barn door, only to have Whitey move to block her exit.

“Miss, it ain’t no skin offen my nose, but I reckon you’d best do as the boss says.  He ain’t one to cross when he’s fired up on somethin’.  I’ll get you the wheelbarrow and the pitchfork is right there.  Do you got gloves?  Don’t want you to get blisters, you bein’ a girl and all…”

“Who the hell does he think he is!” Amanda stomped her foot in pure fury.

“I reckon he figures he’s the boss, and the one who give Glimmer to you, and he’s your Pa, too,” Whitey answered matter-of-factly.

“Well, I’m not doing it!” she declared.

“Suit yourself, but you’d best tell Glimmer goodbye.”

“What do you mean?” Amanda asked curiously.

“I figure Mr. Chambers will take Glimmer back from you if you don’t take proper care of her.  He caught a drifter whippin’ his horse once and like to tore him apart.  He won’t take to you shirkin’ your chores, Miss.”

Amanda wondered how this day could possibly get any worse.  She took the pitchfork and pretended that each jab was into Robert Thorne’s hide!   She was wet and miserable.  Her expensive boots were making her feet blister, and her bottom still throbbed from the spanking.  She couldn’t believe her Father was treating her so callously.  What loving Father forced his only child to muck out stalls?  One who was intent on punishing a daughter who disobeyed him and could have injured a valuable animal, her conscience answered honestly.

Whitey hovered near by while she worked for over an hour cleaning out the stall and then laying fresh straw.  She brushed Glimmer and then fed her.  Once Amanda was all finished, she glanced at Whitey, humiliated that she had to have his approval before she left the barn.  “You done a fine job, Miss.  I’ll tell the boss iffen he asks me.”

Amanda felt like crying, but she held her head up and marched out of the barn and up to the house.  She ignored her Father when he called out to her and ran on up the steps and down the hallway to her bedroom.  Once inside she shut and locked the door; she was not going to speak to her Father, especially while she was at such a disadvantage.  She wanted out of the ruined riding habit, and she never wanted to see it again.  She removed her ruined gloves and tossed them on the floor and was shrugging out of the fitted jacket when there was pounding on her bedroom door mere seconds before the doorknob rattled.
“Go away!” she snapped.

“Amanda, you open this door right now,” Matt ordered.

“I’m undressing, Father,” she exaggerated the word out of pure defiance.  “Leave me alone.  I’ve nothing to say to you at present!”

“Girl, I’ve had enough of your sass for one day.  Goldie will have lunch on the table in less than an hour.   I expect you at the table, and after we eat, you and I are going to sit down and have a talk.  If your temper ain’t cooled by then, I’ll cool it myself.” 

Amanda heard him stomp down the hallway and she finally gave in to the tears that had threatened her since Robert Thorne came upon her while she was on her ride.  What had she done to deserve her Father’s ire?  Robert Thorne was the one who caused all of the trouble, and if her Father loved her, he would have dealt with the man as he deserved for daring to use her own riding whip on her backside.  The pretty redhead managed to take off her boots and threw them into the pile of things she was going to throw away. 

Finally, she was stripped to her skin, and she walked over to her mirror to look at her abused bottom.  To her surprise, she had a few red marks, but nothing at all to indicate the severity of the punishment she had received!  She’d expected to be covered with all sorts of bruises and welts, and, in truth, she was more bruised from the fall off of Glimmer than she was from the whipping Robert Thorne administered.  Even if she wasn’t black and blue and covered with welts, her Father should have shot the aggravating man for daring to treat her so abominably. 

Amanda washed the mud from her body, and then dried off and dressed in one of her favorite dresses.  She took the time to unbraid her hair and brush it until it was shining, and then she pinned it up on top of her head, allowing a few curls to escape to soften the look.  She wanted to look pretty… and most of all, she wanted to appear grown up when she faced her Father.  She wanted him to feel guilty for treating her like a ranch hand.  She shouldn’t have tried to force the little mare to make the jump, but she didn’t deserve to be punished by their neighbor, and she didn’t deserve to be forced to clean stalls, either.  Her Mother would have a proper fit if she knew how much she was suffering on her Father’s ranch.  That thought brought tears to her eyes once again.  She missed her Mother… and sometimes she missed Boston.

Amanda waited until it was noon to go downstairs and into the dining room.  Her Father was already seated at the table, as was Ted Fox, his foreman for the past five years.  Amanda intensely disliked the man, and she made no bones about it.  “Since you apparently have business to discuss, Father, I will eat in the kitchen with Goldie.”

“You will sit down at your place right now, Mandy, and stop acting so highfalutin’,” Matthew Chambers was clearly out of patience. 

Amanda wasn’t about to argue with her parent in front of Ted Fox.  She quietly took her seat and helped herself of the dishes their housekeeper placed on the table.  “This looks wonderful, Goldie,” she smiled at the older woman, who merely nodded and said nothing.  Goldie did not speak unless asked a direct question that required an answer.

Amanda ate quickly, pointedly ignoring her Father and Ted Fox as they discussed ranch business.  When she was finished, she excused herself and got to her feet, picking up her plate and heading for the kitchen.  She always helped Goldie with the dishes.

“Don’t you go too far, daughter.  We’re still going to have a talk,” Matt warned.

She fumed as she heard Ted saying, “Now, Boss, don’t be so hard on Miss Mandy.  She just needs a husband to settle her down.”

“That will never be you, Mr. Fox,” Amanda said in an icy tone, and then left the dining room.  She stayed in the kitchen and let Goldie bring in the rest of the plates and serving bowls and silverware while she dipped water from the reservoir on the stove into the dishpan and started washing the dirty dishes.  It didn’t take long to finish the task, and the kitchen was soon spotless.  Amanda decided to pour another cup of coffee for herself and sit in the kitchen to enjoy it until her Father was through talking to the slimy Ted Fox.  She wasn’t doing one thing to encourage the man.  He’d managed to corner her a few times during the last two years, and each time she felt he was just waiting for the right time to try and attack her.  He truly frightened her with his slippery smile and the evil glint in her eyes.  She felt he was a bully, and even the men on the ranch avoided sparking his quick temper.  They’d seen other men fired for little or no reason, and working on the Chambers Ranch was a good job for a top hand.

“Mandy, come on in here!” Matt bellowed.

Amanda jumped, and thought she caught a sympathetic look in Goldie’s eyes.  She got up, but took her coffee with her as she went to find her father standing by the doorway to the hallway.  “Come to my study, girl.  I don’t want to be interrupted.”  He motioned for her to precede him, and followed behind her, shutting the door once she was inside his office.  “Sit down, Mandy.  We need to have us an understanding,” Matt stated, sitting behind his desk and leaning back in his chair to look at her as she sat cautiously on one of the leather chairs in front of his desk.  “Are you over your temper?” he asked in an abrupt tone of voice.

“I still don’t think you were fair,” Amanda refused to lie.  “You permitted Mr. Thorne to get away with beating me!” she accused.

“Mandy, you struck the man across his face with that damned foolish little whip you carry.  I can’t fault him for doing what I would have done in his place,” he stated.  “It’s time for some plain talk right now, and maybe I shouldn’t have waited this long, but I knew you were grieving for your Mama, and I didn’t want to speak ill of her.”  He paused, reflecting, and then reached for his pipe and filled it with a fragrant tobacco before lighting it.  “Mandy, I don’t know what your Mama told you about me.  I can imagine, but I want you to know that I loved her and it darn near killed me when she left and took you with her.  I should of come after her, turned her over my knee, and brought her back here where she belonged, but I had more pride back then and decided she would come back on her own.  She didn’t.”

“Why did she leave in the first place, Father?” Amanda was curious, in spite of her anger with him.  Her Mama would never discuss the situation with her.

“Isabel left because I put my foot down.  Back in them days, it was even wilder out here than it is now.  I was working hard to make a go of this place; couldn’t afford more than a couple of hands to help out, and we sure as shootin’ didn’t live in this fancy house.  I didn’t build it until about ten years after your Mama left.” 

He shook his head as if to remind himself he was telling a story, and then continued, “Isabel didn’t think I was paying her enough attention.  She missed having other women to talk to, and was mad as hell at me because I wouldn’t take off workin’ in the middle of the day to haul her into town for some silly women’s meeting at the church.   She waited until I was out of sight and then she loaded you into the wagon and took off alone for town.  My horse threw a shoe, or I wouldn’t of known until it was too late to stop the Comanche from carryin’ the two of you off.  Once I rescued the two of you and got you back here, I turned your Mama over my knee and paddled her proper for risking your lives.  It made her furious with me, and she said she wouldn’t live where it wasn’t safe to leave her house alone.  She packed bags for the two of you, and the first chance she got, she left a note for me and said she’d gone home to her parents.  Told me if I came to my senses and was willing to live in Boston, to come for her.  I wasn’t about to give up this ranch, and I wrote and told her so.  She refused to come back, and then she died before I realized I was a fool not to swallow my pride and go and bring her back, kicking and screaming if need be.  I hate that, Mandy.  I hate that I kept thinking I had time to make this place something she would love.  It’s why I built this house… for Isabel… but she wanted nothing to do with it.  As much as I loved her, she was snooty and highfalutin’, and I ain’t about to let you be that way, girl.  You’re my girl as much as your Mama’s, and it’s time for you to forget all about those silly society rules your Mama thought was so darn important.  The truth is, I am your Papa… I don’t want you calling me ‘Father’ as if you don’t care a thing for me.  I don’t want to see you wearing one of those silly riding suits out here any more, either.  It’s been nearly two years now, and you need to adapt, Mandy.  You live in Texas now, not Boston.  And, you need to take responsibility for your mare’s care, and listen to folks when they tell you something for your own good.”  He paused, and then added firmly, well aware of her mutinous expression, “And, honey, you are going to say sorry to Rob Thorne for hitting him.  He’s our neighbor, and I don’t want bad feelings between him and us… especially when you were in the wrong.”  

To be continued

 

 

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