The streets were quiet when they pulled up in front of The Duchess. All the shops along Main Street had been closed for the day as most folks didn’t hold with conducting business on Sunday. Although she tried to avoid him, Morgan managed to snag Callie Mae from the back of the wagon as soon as the other girls had been helped down and escorted to the door.
“This isn’t over,” he warned, setting her down.
“Of course it’s over. It really never began,” Callie Mae snapped, removing his hands from her waist. “From the moment you came home, all you’ve done is scold me, threaten me, and try to boss me around. Maybe Lilly used to put up with that kind of nonsense, but I won’t,” she insisted. “I can’t believe how excited I was when I heard you were back. Now I feel like a silly fool.”
“Listen to me,” Morgan growled, taking her arms in his hands and giving her a slight shake. “I’m just trying to protect you. I watched enough westerns to know what goes on at the end of these cattle drives.”
“What in heaven’s name does that mean, watched enough westerns?” she asked, staring up into his eyes. “Morgan, I swear sometimes I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I… never mind. I misspoke,” Morgan replied, cursing himself for his lack of judgment. He’d been so careful, weighing every word, and now he had to go and say something stupid like that.
“What’s a western and how do you watch one?” she demanded.
“Forget it; forget I said anything like that. The important thing is your safety, yours and the girls’,” he sighed. “I won’t be able to live with myself if I let anything happen to you.”
“Right now, the only thing bad that’s happening to me is you,” she hissed, struggling to pull away from him. “I’m doing the best that I know how. I’m trying to carve out a life for myself, Morgan, so I don’t have to be dependent on a man.”
Morgan released her and ran a hand through his hair. “Couldn’t you have found something a little safer, a little more respectable? Why can’t you be like a normal woman in this century and open something sensible, like a restaurant or a dress shop?”
“We already have a restaurant and a dress shop in this town, in case you haven’t noticed, and why should I be limited just because I’m a woman? If I have the money to open a business, I should be able to open any kind I want, even a saloon, and nobody should have a word to say about it.”
“Aw, I’m tired of arguing with you. You’re as stubborn as the day is long and half the time I wonder if you’ve got a lick of sense. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how things turn out once the town starts filling up, but I’m warning you, Callie Mae, if I hear of you doing anything stupid…”
“The only thing stupid I’ve done is get involved with you, Morgan Whitaker. I had no idea you were such a narrow-minded, opinionated ass.”
The thin thread holding his temper snapped. Taking a firm grip on Callie Mae’s wrist, he pulled her to the back of the wagon and sat down, yanking her over his lap. Just before he flipped up her skirts, he noticed his brothers watching the scene unfold with interest.
“Why don’t you two take a nice long walk,” he suggested.
Matthew and Mead looked at one another and turned walking down Main Street towards the church. Two seconds later, Callie Mae felt her skirt flung over her head as the cool night air touched her drawers.
“Morgan Whittaker, you let me go this instant or I’ll scream my head off!” Callie Mae cried, kicking her feet frantically as she struggled.
“Go right ahead,” Morgan replied grimly. “I’m sure the entire town would be interested in seeing you get your comeuppance,” he told her, just as he brought his large hand down sharply. “You’re lucky I don’t bare this pretty bottom and give you what you really deserve,” he continued as he smacked her over and over again.
“No, you’re lucky I don’t have my gun!” she squealed. “I’d shoot you dead, you son of a bitch.”
“Now, is that a very ladylike thing to say?” he asked sternly, despite the grin on his face. He was finding this immensely satisfying and he increased his tempo as well as the strength of his slaps. Obviously, she was unrepentant and argumentative, so he must not be doing it right.
The warmth of her body, squirming across his lap was distracting. He could feel himself swelling beneath her, something that hadn’t happened in a very long time, and he paused.
“Are you going to let me go?” she demanded.
“Are you going to listen to reason?” he countered.
Her answering snort was all the incentive he needed to continue and he did, with much more confidence, covering her entire backside with quick sharp spanks. When she kicked back with her foot and knocked his hat off, he swiftly trapped her legs between his and upped the ante.
Callie Mae continued to struggle, even though she knew she didn’t have a prayer of getting away. Her bottom was blazing hot, as was her face she was sure. Morgan had always been a no-nonsense sort of man. As a young girl, that had appealed to her. He was strong and dependable, not given to drink, and he certainly was attractive. A girl could do a lot worse than Morgan Whittaker. Now she was seeing a different side of him. While she wanted his attention, this was not what she had in mind. She wanted more of those kisses that made her toes curl and her heart pound, and what she was getting was a spanking of epic proportions. While he may have thought he’d forgotten how, she was here to tell him he was dead wrong.
Tears began to drip from her chin, and she realized she was crying despite her best efforts not to. She’d been gossiped about and maligned for months by the town she called home, and to top it all off, she was getting spanked like a little girl in front of her own damn business by a man she’d given her heart to years ago. It was too much and the sobs escaped in great gulping rasps as she let herself collapse over his knees.
Morgan felt her resistance give way, but being it was Callie Mae, he thought he should at least give her a few more crisp smacks to show he meant business. When he felt satisfied, he gently patted her bottom and sat her up next to him on the wagon bed.
Callie Mae was surprised the straw didn’t burst into flames her bottom was so hot, and she covered her face with her hands.
“Come on, Callie Mae, we both know you deserved that,” Morgan said softly, slipping his arm around her. “Now we’ll start with a clean slate and decide what to do about this mess you’ve gotten yourself into. I’m sure we can come up with a reasonable solution.”
Callie Mae shrugged his arm off her shoulders and inched away, her hands still covering her face.
“Honey,” Morgan sighed, picking her up and setting her on his lap. “It’s alright now, baby. I’m not angry anymore. Let me comfort you,” he said, prying her hands away and pulling her head to his chest. He could feel the heat coming off her butt and was pretty proud of himself.
“Oh, you’re not angry anymore,” she sighed, savoring the feel of his strong chest against her cheek. More tears fell as she realized that this was probably the last time she would feel his arms around her, smell his clean scent, or maybe even speak to him. It was sad and she was heartbroken. How could she have misjudged him for so many years?
“It’s good you’re not mad anymore, Morgan,” she whispered, “because I’m furious enough for both of us,” she hissed, shoving him back in the wagon and leaping to the ground.
Morgan sat up quickly and made a grab for her, but Callie Mae was too fast for him. She darted out of reach, cupping her bottom in both of her hands.
“How dare you spank me? What gives you the right?” she demanded as he hopped off the wagon and approached her much as he would a skittish colt.
“Now, honey,” he began, “I’m only trying to make you see reason. If you’d just listened to me things would never have gone this far. I’m just trying to protect you.”
“You stay away from me,” she ordered, backing toward the saloon door. “I don’t need protection, not from you or anybody else. In fact, I never want to see you again, you overgrown baboon.”
“Callie Mae, you don’t mean that. I’m sorry if I did it wrong and hurt you too badly. Next time I have to take you in hand I’ll…”
“There won’t be a next time. I mean it, Morgan. I thought I loved you,” she cried, a sob escaping as she scrubbed her face on her sleeve. “I thought you were something special. Now I know that you’re just like all the other men in this town. You think you know everything. You think women are stupid and we should just listen to you!”
“Of course I don’t think you’re stupid,” Morgan replied, holding out his hand to her. “I admire you. I really do, honey. You’ve done a fine job here,” he said, indicating the building at her back. “I just don’t think you should be running it with a group of inexperienced young women who have no idea how to defend themselves. I understand you wanting your own business, your own income, but this isn’t the right way to go about it.”
“Says you,” she snapped sarcastically.
“Yes, dammit, says me,” he growled back, losing his temper all over again. “Own it if you want to, but get a man to run it for you,” he ordered, planting his hands on his hips. “It’s not a job for a woman alone.”
“We’ll just see about that, won’t we,” she said curtly. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going inside and locking the door. I’d like to thank you for a lovely evening, but that would be too big of a lie, even for someone of my low moral character.”
“Now just a damn minute,” he said walking toward her. “No one said anything about your moral character and it’s unfair of you to take it to that level. I’m just trying to reason…”
“Yes, I’ve seen how you reason. Please thank your mother for a lovely supper, and if I never see you again, it’ll be too soon!” she yelled before slipping inside and slamming the doors.
* * *
“Oh my God, are you alright?” Fancy asked Callie Mae as the girls hovered around.
“I’m fine,” Callie Mae answered, leaning against the locked door.
“I wish there was something we could have done to help,” Jane said.
“There will be next time something like this happens. The next time some big man comes in here throwing his weight and his opinions around, we’ll be ready for him,” Callie Mae insisted with a groan.
“How?” Marilee asked, patting Callie Mae on the shoulder.
“I’m going to teach you all how to use a gun. Annalise, will you bring me some ice, I’m going to bed.”
Annalise hurried to do what Callie Mae asked while the other girls looked at each other in shock.
Finally Fancy smiled. “I think it’s a good idea,” she said. “We should have a way to defend ourselves.”
“I suppose you’re right,” Marilee sighed. “I just never figured it was something I’d need to learn.”
“Me neither,” Jane added as they moved about the room, blowing out the lamps.
“Well, that didn’t go as planned,” Morgan sighed, picking up his hat and slamming it on his head.
“You went too easy on her,” Mead replied, unfolding himself from his position against a shadowed wall.
“What do you mean too easy? She was crying her eyes out,” Morgan demanded.
“Yes, but out of anger and frustration. There wasn’t a lick of remorse in her. I told you to keep on until the apologies started. If you stop before then, you’re doomed to repeat the same lesson over and over. Next time, take her somewhere private and spank her bare bottom until you’ve done a good job. And do it where there’s light so you can judge how hard you’re spanking and if her tears are genuine.”
“I though her tears were genuine,” Morgan said, climbing onto the wagon seat.
“They were, just not for the right reasons. You have a lot to learn, big brother,” Mead said over his shoulder as he led his horse down the street to the livery.
Matthew climbed up beside Morgan on the seat. “Women sure are hard to understand, aren’t they, Morgan? If Pa had given me a lickin’ like that, I’d have been breaking my neck to please him for the next week, but with Callie Mae, it just made her behave worse. I sure don’t get it.”
“I’m beginning to wonder if I get it, Matt. Let’s go home and see if there’s any of Ma’s pie left.”
“Sounds good to me,” Matthew replied.
They’d gone several miles before Matthew spoke. “So what are you going to do, Morg? It doesn’t seem as if Callie Mae and the girls are inclined to listen to reason.”
“I don’t know; any suggestions?”
“Well, I do go to town several nights a week. I could sort of keep an eye on things if you want me too,” Matt offered.
Morgan laughed. “One of those girls catch your eye?” he asked, grinning.
“No, of course not; my heart belongs to Miss Laurie Dixon. I told you that.”
“So you didn’t think they were pretty?” Morgan teased.
“Sure they’re pretty. Even Annalise would be pretty if she put on something that didn’t make her look like she was in mourning and fixed up her hair. I bet she’d be the prettiest of the lot.”
“So is that why you’re offering to keep an eye on things, because they’re pretty?”
“Cut it out, Morg. I’m just trying to help you out. It’s Laurie I want.”
“What happens if she doesn’t want you?”
“That’s just it, Morgan. I think she does. Sometimes I catch her looking at me and her eyes are all sort of soft and dreamy. Then when I say something she gets all businesslike, treating me like the hired help or something when I’m doing her a favor. I figure old Floyd didn’t treat her very well. She seems kind of scared, skittish even. You’d think a woman who’d been married and has three youngins wouldn’t be afraid of a man getting too close.”
“Maybe that’s why she acts that way,” Morgan suggested. “It stands to reason if she had one lousy husband, she wouldn’t be looking for another. And maybe other men have been treating her the same way, or being disrespectful, thinking she was easy pickings because she’s already been with a man.”
“I suppose that could be it, but I hadn’t better find any man being disrespectful to Laurie, or I’ll beat the tar out of him,” he stated angrily. “She’s a good woman and I won’t stand for that. Maybe I need to approach this from a different angle. Treat Laurie like I would any other young girl I was wanting to court. You know, take her flowers and candy, things like that. Pick up some treats for the little ones. I know she needs help, but she’s so all fired stubborn about such things. I’ve seen her crying when she thought no one was looking, but when I try to comfort her, she shoves me away and says, ‘go find some pretty young thing to hang all over, I’m done with all that’. You’d think she was a hundred the way she acts, like her life is over and all that’s left is working her fingers to the bone and raisin’ those kids.”
“It sounds like you have a plan,” Morgan said, turning onto the track to the house. “What if that doesn’t work?”
“Well then, I’m going to do to Laurie what you did to Callie Mae tonight, ‘cept I’m gonna do a better job,” Matthew laughed, jumping down from the wagon. “If you hurry getting the team unhitched, I might save you a piece of pie.”
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