The Demure Bride

By: Joannie Kay

"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.

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