The Demure Bride

By: Joannie Kay

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!"

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