The Demure Bride

By: Joannie Kay

"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."

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