Lacey was meeting Tess in the town square to do a little marketing together as they often did. On the sidewalk, people were strolling or striding depending on the urgency of their errands, but there were several clumps of men gathered around newspapers. As they approached one group, Lacey could hear that they were laughing heartily. “I wonder what’s so funny,” Tess said to Lacey.
“You’re right. The news isn’t usually so amusing. Let’s go closer and see if we can pick up any clues,” Lacey replied. As they neared one group, Lacey almost stumbled when she heard the word. It was only one word, but it told her all she needed to know. “Lucky, Tess. They’re saying Lucky. Oh, my.” The girls started to laugh. All over the square there were little knots of people mostly gathered around newspapers and chuckling.
Just then the editor of the local paper rushed by. “Thank you, Mrs. Eaton,” he said, emphasizing the mistake in the pronunciation of her name. “I’m having to go into a fourth printing. Sold out of papers in the first hour.”
“This is even better than I’d hoped for,” Lacey crowed to Tess. “But we’d better get our shopping done and put some distance between me and the sheriff’s office, don’t you think?”
“Now you suddenly get careful.” Tess sighed. “Locking the barn door after the horse has been stolen.”
“Until the horse is stolen, how do you know you need to lock the barn door?” Lacey laughed.
They hurried over to the dry goods store where a smiling Mr. Matheson greeted them warmly. “I’m all out of Lucky beans, thanks to you. I sent a boy over to the warehouse to get another case.”
And indeed, even as they were standing there, a laughing young cowboy came in and asked for some Lucky beans. “All the other entries were going with that Jack and the Beanstalk thing, but the sheriff? He knows a thing or two about the cowboy life and folks who eat beans. He’s a real Texan. Wind and Lucky beans.” Laughing heartily, he promised to come back later in the afternoon to see if the store had gotten in more beans.
As the young cowboy left, another man entered. Lacey turned to see her husband. The smiles all fell from the faces of those who were wearing them. Zach looked as if he had never before and would never again crack so much as a hint of a smile. “Lacey?”
“Yes, dear?” she cooed. “You’re out early.”
“I thought I had a riot on my hands, so I left the office to see what all the commotion was about.” Zach approached her slowly, backing her toward the counter where Mr. Matheson stood.
“Now, Zach, I have to say, I’m grateful to her. She didn’t do any harm. What’s wrong with folks laughing a little? Or a lot?” He couldn’t contain his chuckles and they burst forth.
Tess joined in. “Really, Zach. It was just a bit of fun.”
Zach turned a softer gaze on Tess. “I’m not mad, Tess. I just want to have a little discussion with my wife.” Tess scampered out of the store, leaving Lacey and Zach with the shopkeeper. Zach turned to him to say, “I’d want a word with you, too, about publishing comments that incite riots, but I realize that my wife here can be a bit overwhelming. You can’t be blamed for the effects of what she does any more than if you’d been caught in a cyclone.”
“I can make it up to you, though,” Mr. Matheson put in. He reached up to the shelf behind him and brought down a box of sturdy wooden hairbrushes.
Zach helped himself with a hearty, “Thanks, Matheson.” Taking his wife by the arm, he hustled her out of the store and down the street.
“Now, Zach,” she pleaded, “There was no harm done. Everyone says so. Couldn’t I at least put that hairbrush in my reticule? It seems odd for you to be striding down the street with it in your hand.”
“Oh, I don’t know about that. I think most folks will understand my attitude completely.”
They made the long walk out of town in silence, interrupted frequently by jovial calls from passersby congratulating Zach and wishing him success. Everyone seemed to assume he had entered the contest. She could only hope that the people who witnessed their little promenade were too busy laughing to notice the odd article in his hand.
Once they got inside the house, Zach pointed at her with the hairbrush. “Whatever possessed you to do it? And if you ask me ‘do what?’ I’ll skip the discussion all together and go straight to the spanking.”
“Well, I just thought it would be fun. When I heard about the contest, I thought about what you always say about beans and cowboys. It’s funny. Why not give people a little laughter?”
“At my expense?”
“They weren’t laughing at you. Everyone that I heard sounded like they admired you.”
“You’re right, Lacey. I’ll give you that. It turned out better than I thought it would when I first read it.”
“You read it for yourself?”
“Oh, yes. I was leaning back in my chair with my feet on my desk taking a break from paperwork with a cup of coffee. Such a nice day. Not much going on. I thought I’d take a look through the local paper. And what did I see on the second page?”
Lacey started to giggle. “Did you recognize your own words?”
“It was Tess’s artwork that caught my eye first. No colors of course. I only saw that when I went down to the newspaper office. Still, I looked at her drawings and then started to read. By the time I got to my name, even misspelled, I realized what you’d done. You are something else, Lacey Eaton, and that’s a fact.” He took her in his arms and stared down at her. “I never know what you’re going to do next.”
“And that’s why you love me?”
“One of the reasons. The other is that you’ve got such a cute little hiney, just right for spanking. And you give me so many good reasons to spank it.” So saying, he hauled her unceremoniously over to the settee and plunked himself down on it. Pulling her over his lap, he began to apply the hairbrush over her skirts. The thick cotton gave her only moderate protection, but she still squirmed and squealed, just on general principle. Soon enough, he paused to push her clothes out of the way, however. Then her cries became more earnest.
“Zach, stop! This isn’t right. I don’t deserve to be punished.”
And he surprised her by doing as she asked. “You’re right. But I figure you do owe me, just for pulling such a crazy fool stunt.”
“Is spanking me making you feel better about it all?”
“It sure is.”
Lacey pulled a face, which she knew he couldn’t see. “Oh, all right.” She lay still over his lap. “But that’s enough of that hairbrush. It packs a wallop.”
He put it down on the settee. “I’d rather use my hand anyway.” He smacked her backside soundly, then rubbed firmly. Alternating swats and rubs, he went on until Lacey wondered if the magic that was slowly building in her blood could be working on him as well. For working it was, the sensations spreading through her like nothing she had ever known.
Suddenly, he shifted, turning himself so that his legs were more to the side. She shifted to match him so that she was more straddling one of his legs with her own than over his lap. The spanking went on, more slowly than she wished it would. Her bottom was throbbing to the beat of her heart, echoing to her core, pushing her closer to the edge of bliss.
By the time he lay back on the settee drawing her up to him for a hungry kiss, she felt ready to explode with heat and need. Removing barriers and changing positions took some time and effort, but they managed somehow. Their cries, a mixture of laughter, pleasure and triumph, mingled with the soft sunlight playing through the curtains to spill onto the floor while the shadow slipped over the settee.
When it was over and they had lain in sated exhaustion for several minutes, Lacey finally squirmed a bit. “No wonder people use beds. This isn’t very comfortable.”
Zach sat up. “I don’t know. It felt pretty good to me. And if I’m not mistaken, you didn’t mind either.”
“While it was going on I didn’t. And I don’t know why… I mean, you were spanking me, but…” Had she enjoyed the spanking? That wasn’t possible. But it was true.
“Why fight it, honey? It happened. It might happen again, but I don’t think you’ll like every spanking I give you. I think we’ll be able to tell the difference.”
“I think so, too. But I do hope it happens again. It was…” She lifted her palms, finding no words to describe what she had felt.
“I know. It was… for me, too.” He mirrored her gesture then gave her a quick kiss. “Now, back to work. Want to walk with me?” Zach asked.
She was eager for the chance to prolong her time with him. The road he would take lead right by Tess’s house. They usually spent afternoons together doing lessons and helping each other with chores. “Yes, I think I will,” she replied, giving his hand a squeeze.
* * *
Over the coming weeks, while they worked at the manual tasks, Lacey continued to teach Tess about the history of their state and their country, along with some basic math and science principles that were helpful in building. In between times and when they needed a break, Lacey had taken to teaching Tess basic piano skills. This they had to practice at Tess’s house because Zach didn’t have a piano. She had been more than happy that he was able to buy her a small house just outside town when he moved out of his boarding house the day after the wedding. She didn’t expect anything as grand as a piano, but she enjoyed using the one Hal kept in his almost forgotten music room.
It was one afternoon when they were sitting at the piano together when they heard a knock on the door. Tess hurried to open it quickly and was confronted by a very irate Zach. “Do you always open the door wide like that? Tess, you should know better!”
“But—” she tried to answer, but he cut her off.
“Always, always look out the parlor window first and see if you know the person,” Zach chided. “I catch you flinging open your door again without looking and I’ll tell Hal.”
Lacey left the piano and came to the door just as Zach was stepping inside. “What’s all the fuss?”
“You don’t just open the door without looking first, do you?” Zach demanded.
“Uh, no, of course not,” Lacey replied, hoping that was the right answer. She had not seen her husband this agitated in a long time. “What’s wrong Zach? What happened? Come in and sit down.” It was a measure of their friendship that Lacey didn’t hesitate to invite someone into Tess’s house without asking.
“No time,” Zach shot back. “Look, I just came here to tell you both the news. Herbert Morris has been sighted.”
Lacey bit her lip. “Where?”
“In Molenose, but by the time I got word, he had gone again.”
“Who spotted him?” Lacey asked.
“Why should we care? He’s nothing to me. Nothing to us.” Tess sounded exactly like Lacey now and she could tell her friend was trying hard to maintain her composure and not fall back into bad habits.
“You should care because he… well, I just want you two to be careful, all right? I mean it. You mind me on this, or you’ll regret it. You’re going to have to be more cautious. Keep the doors locked even during the day. No more riding out into the countryside. No going out to the ranch just the two of you.”
“Zach, really, is this man a threat?”
“He could be but you’ll be fine if you’re just careful. I have to get back to work.”
And with that, he was gone. The two young ladies stared at each other for a minute before Tess turned on her heel and marched into the bedroom. Lacey suspected she knew what Tess was doing so she waited for her to return. “It’s time you learned about this,” Tess said. In her hands, breach open, barrel pointing toward the floor, was a shotgun.
Lacey said nothing but expected her friend to lead her outside. Instead, they went into the kitchen where Tess spread out an oilcloth on the table.
“What’s this? We can’t fire this thing inside,” Lacey said.
“We’re not firing. At least, not yet. First, you have to learn to clean it and take care of it. Then you’ll learn how it can take care of you.”
* * *
Lacey sat in her bedroom, stiff as a board. She had no idea what to expect except to say that it was going to be embarrassing and then it was going to hurt. She was just contemplating how she could beg off the ladies’ sewing circle at the church tomorrow, knowing that she wouldn’t be able to sit on those hard chairs for two minutes, let alone two hours when Zach came in.
“So, young lady, do you want to explain to me why I got refused at Matheson’s today? Why he told me I’d better pay something on our huge bill before he extended me any more credit because he didn’t want to lose a good customer by letting me get in over my head?”
“You know why. Mr. Matheson must have told you.”
“Sure he did, but I want to hear it from your sweet lips,” he growled as he sat down on the bed.
“I didn’t realize how much it would actually cost until I had already ordered it and then I didn’t want to change my mind.”
“Matheson told me you were very insistent, however. He told me you came in there like gangbusters, all confidence and nerve. That’s why he gave in to you. But what were you thinking, asking for a gun like that?”
“Like what? A gun’s a gun. I didn’t try to buy a shotgun. Tess has one of those I could learn on so I thought it would be nice for me to provide the revolver for us to learn on.”
“You and Tess?” Zach repeated, with slight incredulity behind his anger. “I’m not sure whether to laugh or curse.”
“How about laughing then? Always more fun,” Lacey suggested brightly.
“This is no time for your smart mouth, young lady.” Uh-oh. He was back to all anger again.
“I would never have bought it if I had known how expensive it was going to be. I’m sure one of my brothers will buy it from you so we’ll have the money back soon enough.”
“So you didn’t realize how big it was going to be?” His tone, half incredulous, half exasperated, gave no indication how she should answer.
“I just looked at the picture in the catalogue and asked for that one.”
His head dropped to his chest, but whether to hide his laughter or his despair, Lacey couldn’t tell. “It was a Colt 45 Peacemaker. Do you realize that thing weighs more than two pounds? You’d need two hands just to hold it steady and the kickback would knock you on your hiney.”
“I liked the name. Peacemaker. It sounded… Biblical.”
Zach couldn’t help laughing then. She hoped he would forget all about his purpose and just hold her, but it was not to be. When he got control of his voice again, he explained in a slow, deliberate tone, “You do not pick a gun because it sounds Biblical. You don’t pick a gun at all. I already picked one out for you and had it on order. That’s why the bill went too high.”
“Oh, Zach! I’m so sorry. I ruined your surprise.”
“A nice little deringer is coming. Just something you can get your hand around. Not much stopping power but it would make a man think twice. Buy you time till help comes. It’s not a surprise anymore but you’ll still get it. As for the Peacemaker, Matheson didn’t order it. He was about to, then looked at the numbers and changed his mind.”
“Well, that’s good. So no harm done.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t say that. You just went out and ordered a gun? And you think that’s a fine thing to do? Something that expensive and that deadly without even asking me about it?”
“You what? Why did you try to keep it a secret?”
“It wasn’t a secret. I bought it from Matheson’s Dry Goods. You see everything on the list of purchases once a quarter when you pay the bill.”
“So why didn’t you ask me?”
“I… I just thought that you might not find out about it quite so soon and I would have time to learn to use it before you did. Find out, I mean.”
“I see. So it wasn’t a secret. It was just kind of a delayed truth.”
“Sure. That’s it. You’re so understanding,” she cooed, turning her standard doe eyes on him. This look was designed to soothe ruffled male feathers and boost dented egos, but the magic didn’t seem to be working tonight. He wasn’t returning her smile.
“Don’t try that with me, young lady. You deserve a spanking and that’s what you’re going to get. You don’t make that kind of purchase without talking it over and you particularly don’t buy guns. When it comes to firearms, I need to know what you have and where you have it at all times. Guns are dangerous and nothing to fool around with. I don’t mind you learning, Lacey, but I’ll be the one to teach you.” With that, he flipped her over his knee and pulled her nightgown out of the way. As he often did, he slid her forward and grasped her bottom cheeks with both hands before he gripped her tightly around the waist with one arm and smacked her backside with the other.
Swat after stinging swat burned her bottom. She yelped and kicked but not with any real hope of changing anything. That was the most embarrassing thing about a spanking: her lack of choice, lack of control. She had no say in this matter and was completely at his mercy. She was his and he would do what he intended to do no matter what.
Her rump was throbbing by the time he paused. Vainly, she hoped he might be finished, but he proved her wrong after only a moment’s rest. “It’s time for the hairbrush. Go get it.”
“Oh, Zach, please, no. I’ve been punished enough. I’m really sorry.”
“You’re going to be sorrier still if you don’t stand up and get me my hairbrush. Now scoot!”
“And keep your nightgown up. I want to see my target.”
She hated this part. She had to hold her nightgown up above her waist and walk over to his dresser to retrieve his stout wooden hairbrush, then return to his side and present it to him. All these things she did with a feeling of dread, knowing what was coming. At least then it would be over but that was small comfort considering what she knew was in store. She brought him the brush and expected for him to pat his legs but he surprised her again. “You’re not getting off that easily. We’ve been needing to have this little talk for a while. You’ve been ornery and mouthy for days now, but with the hunt for Morris, I haven’t had time to do the thing right. Well, I figure I’d better make time. You need to think on the error of your ways. Put your nose in that corner.”
“Oh, Zach, no!” she moaned. She wasn’t sure what she hated worse, the spanking or the waiting for the spanking. It was so embarrassing and more importantly, it was boring.
“Do you want me to draw you a circle to keep your nose in?”
“No! I’ll go.” She shuffled over to the corner, waiting there till she almost fell asleep on her feet. She thought about giving a fake snore or two, but realized that with her bare, singed bottom on display, now was not the time to tease him.
Just when she thought she would scream from the boredom, he called her out of the corner and asked the questions she had anticipated. He usually asked questions after he had told her to think. “So, young lady, what did you do to earn you twenty swats with the hairbrush?”
Her initial instinct every time he asked this question was to answer with a resounding “Nothing!” but again, good sense prevailed. Looking down at him as she stood by his side, she answered, “I tried to spend too much money without asking you first and I bought a gun, which is a very dangerous thing. I should have asked you first about that, too. I am sorry.”
“It’s not just the budget I’m worried about, though that is important. It’s the seriousness of the firearm purchase I want you to understand. It’s my job to protect you, but when I’m not here, it’s not a bad thing for you to have a gun and know how to use it. These are the times we live in. But I’ll be in charge of your training. Do you understand? No more lessons on shooting with Tess. I’ll make sure you know how to use your derringer when it gets here. Now, over you go.”
She laid herself over his lap and he took his time positioning her the way he wanted her, rubbing her backside as he did so. She hated the way he made such a ceremony out of it. The spanking itself was almost secondary to all the to-do he made over getting her at just the right angle and with her cheeks just so. No, on second thought, the moment the hairbrush made contact with her tender flesh, she realized that the spanking was primary after all. That thing hurt like blazes. She wasn’t sure whether to be grateful or resentful that he took his time, letting every swat sink in before applying the next one. She was bucking and bawling by the time he finished, but she didn’t try to hit him again as she once had done. She tried to get up, but he held her down with a firm hand on her back.
“I’ll say when you can get up.”
He stroked her hair and rubbed away some of the sting as he talked to her. He spoke of his love and caring for her. He reminded her of their agreement that he would be in charge of their home. She in her turn nodded and sniffed away the last of her tears. “You can get up now, Lacey. I hope we don’t have to do this again for a long time, but remember, if you earn a spanking, you’ll get it, no matter when it is.”
She was to remember those words a week later when she was back over his knee.
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