When Rhett decided Kate had waited long enough, he rose to his feet, ambled across to Jonas to thank him for his help, then with Bruiser padding along beside him, he walked into the dining room and found Katherine sitting in a chair behind the door.
“So, young lady, I reckon you’ve had time to think. You got anythin’ to say for yourself?”
“I’m sorry, Rhett. You’re right. If Nate had seen me it could have caused all sorts of problems.”
“If I hadn’t found you, would you have told me you were here?”
“Yes, I swear.”
“You’ve got a mighty strong willful streak in you.”
“I suppose I do.”
“What are we gonna do about that?”
“You know I’m gonna spank you, right?”
“But I’m still weak and tired.”
“You weren’t too weak and too tired to walk all the way here from your house.”
“No, but I am feeling that way now.”
“We’d best get you home. Come on. We’ll get a buggy from Clint, and Carl can come with us and drive it back.”
“Pa has invited you to stay for lunch. Will you be able to?”
“Sure. I wanna talk with him anyway, and I want you to tell me what you know about Nate’s business. How often he goes out every day, how many people work for him, things like that.”
“I don’t know much, but I’ll tell you what I can remember,” she said, rising to her feet and stretching. “That was a long time to wait.”
“And it was a bad thing you did.”
“Yep, so you said, and your bottom will be for sure. Right now we have to move quick. I doubt Nate will be comin’ down the stairs any time soon, but we can’t be too careful. You ready?”
“Let’s go, Bruiser.”
Holding her hand, he strode swiftly across the lobby and through the door, but once outside Katherine paused and took in a long breath.
“Yes. As hot as it is, I just needed some air.”
“I’ve some news from the doc for you,” he said, deciding it was time to tell Katherine about Nate’s poisonous tonic.
“You do? What is it?”
“That supposed medicine Nate had you takin’, it had some stuff in it to make you sick.”
“What? That’s horrible. What an evil, evil, evil man. Why would he do that?”
“Dunno, Kate, but the good news is the doc analyzed it and said there wasn’t as much of the bad stuff in it as he’d thought. He said you’ve probably been sick more from bein’ upset all the time, and worryin’ about your pa, and then the long journey back here. That’s why you’re gettin’ better so quick.”
“That is good news.”
“It’s great news,” Rhett mumbled, thinking about how worried he’d been when he’d heard about the arsenic. “He said in a couple of days you should be pretty much back to normal.”
“I can feel it,” she said with a happy smile. “Honestly, I had no problem walking here. It was the waiting that wore me out, though I suppose that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.”
“Waitin’ can be wearyin’, especially when there’s nothin’ to do but think.”
They’d reached his office, and pushing open the door, they found Carl inside sweeping out the back room where the cells were housed.
“Carl, go see Clint and pick us up a buggy. I wanna take Katherine home. You can drop us off and bring it back.”
“Sure, boss. Hey, Katherine. I guess you got to watch it all from behind the dinin’ room door. What’d you think?”
“It was very satisfying,” he replied, feeling slightly embarrassed though not sure why.
“Yep, it worked real well. I’ll be right back with that buggy.”
As Carl left, Rhett told Bruiser to stay by his desk, then taking Katherine’s hand, he led her into the back room, and closed and locked the door.
“What are you doing?”
“Gettin’ ready to heat up your disobedient backside.”
“Yep. If you’re well enough to defy me, you’re well enough to be punished for it. Bend over and hold onto the bars of that first cell. This will only take a minute, but it’s gonna leave your butt stingin’ and hot. You’ve gotta learn to mind me, Kate, especially when I’m doin’ what I’m doin’ to protect you.”
Katherine followed Rhett’s instructions, bending at the waist and gripping the bars of the cell, but as she looked over her shoulder she was confused. Rhett had the broom upside-down, and was doing something with the thin sticks that made up the sweep. It was only when he turned around that Katherine saw he was holding two of them in his hand.
“You’re going to spank me with those?”
“Like I said, this will be real quick and leave you with a good, hot sting.”
“Can’t you just use your hand like always?”
“I don’t have enough time, and I can’t let you go unpunished.”
“You weren’t just willful, I’m thinkin’ you took advantage.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, I think you were countin’ on the fact that you’ve been sick and I wouldn’t redden your backside.”
“I, um…” she stammered, feeling her face flush crimson.
“Uh-huh. Just as I figured.”
He lifted her dress and laid it over her waist, but as he followed it with her petticoat he was shocked to see she was wearing the older style bloomers with the slit up the back, and posed as she was, her bottom was clearly visible. His cock surged to life.
“Looks like you’re gonna get this on your bare backside,” he murmured, pushing aside the fabric. “I’m gonna give you half a dozen good licks for not stayin’ at home, and speakin’ of that, did you sneak outta your house?”
“Sort of,” she whimpered, feeling lewdly exposed by the sun shining through the cell windows. “I thought I’d be back before anyone knew I’d left.”
“So right now your pa could be worryin’,” he said, roaming his hands over her cheeks. “Dang it, Kate, when are you gonna learn?”
“I had to see Nate suffer.”
“That don’t make it right. Grip those bars. I’m gonna spank you right now.”
Holding the sticks firmly in his hand, he tested them on his thigh. As he suspected they carried a decent sting, and applying them to her naked backside, he wouldn’t have to use much force. Tapping them against the center of her bottom, he landed the first. She let out a yelp, but without pause he continued, quickly delivering five more and counting them out. After each she squealed and stamped her foot, but he paid no heed to her protests. After the last strike she wriggled her bottom and threw her hands behind her.
“Ow, ow, ooh, that smarts. Oh, dear, oh, dear.”
“Put your hands back on those bars immediately,” he said sternly, “unless you want more.”
“Sorry, sorry,” she whimpered, instantly doing as he said.
Throwing the sticks aside, he rubbed the thin red marks to soothe her skin, but as he did he could see the glistening wetness between her legs. His comforting touch moved lower, and as it neared her sex she wriggled and spread her legs. The invitation was impossible to resist and he slipped his hand into her soaked pussy. He was rewarded with a long, low moan, and as he tickled her clit and pushed a finger inside her, she arched her back asking for more. His cock was painfully uncomfortable in his pants, but he was loath to release it. The ache to finally take her, to thrust inside her hungry pussy, was overwhelming him. Would he be able to resist if his member was free?
“Won’t you have me?”
Her bleated request sent a fresh surge of energy through his loins.
“Please,” she whimpered. “Why must we wait?”
Why must we wait?
The question seized him. They loved each other. They were to be married. What sense was there in waiting? In a flash his pants were dropped and his cock was in his hand, sitting at her entrance. She was open and wet, and when she wriggled, begging him to enter, he pushed forward, and with strong, fervent strokes surrendered to her pussy’s divine bliss.
Katherine’s eyes were squeezed shut, her fingers were grasping the bars, and her breath was coming in short, sharp gasps. She had dreamed about him ravaging her, she had played with herself as she’d fantasized, but she wasn’t prepared for the intense sensations rippling through her body. His member was consuming her, and as his pumping accelerated she could feel her pussy was about to explode in a way it never had before.
He hadn’t wanted to climax so quickly, but there was no stopping the powerful eruption as it gushed through him. Her pussy was glorious beyond measure, her cries were fuel to his fever, and as his deep guttural groans announced the onset of his orgasm, she threw back her head in a wail of joy. It was a stupendous moment, and though they had consummated their love in the back room of the sheriff’s office, it had felt absolutely perfect to them both.
Moments later, flaccid and spent, his cock slipped out, and still trying to catch his breath, he pulled the bandana from his neck. After gently wiping her leaking sex, he cleaned himself, quickly pulled up his trousers, and then brought her into his arms. No words passed between them, just an overpowering sense of closeness, and Katherine wanted to stay as they were for a very long time, but the sound of the front door jolted them from their bliss; Carl had returned.
“No, please, don’t let me go, not yet,” she mewled. “I’m not ready.”
“I know, baby, me too,” he muttered as he reluctantly broke his hold. “Don’t worry, we’ll be together soon. I promise.”
“I can’t wait for soon,” she breathed, gazing up at his strong, handsome face. “I need to be with you now.”
“I’ll talk to your pa today. I’m gonna make you my wife as quick as I can.”
Unable to stop the happy tears, she fell back against his chest, but the rattling of the door handle forced them apart.
“Sheriff? You in there? You okay?”
“Yeah, Carl, we’ll be right out. Take Bruiser and wait in the buggy,” Rhett called back, then placing his hands on either side of Katherine’s face, he leaned in and drifted his lips against her mouth in a warm, loving, ardent kiss.
Though the ride home in the buggy was far from comfortable, and her tender bottom was constantly reminding her that her sheriff had made her pay for her crime, Katherine could not stop smiling. She sat close to him so their arms were touching, and his promise kept repeating itself in her head. I’m gonna make you my wife as quick as I can. It was all she could think about, and as Billy pulled the horse to a stop outside her house, she couldn’t wait for them to get inside so Rhett could talk to her father. As Bertha welcomed them in, Bruiser made a beeline for the kitchen, and to her relief Katherine learned that Clarence had been unaware that she’d left, but Bertha had known and gave her a scolding look.
“I’ve already given Kate a talkin’ to,” Rhett assured her. “She won’t be runnin’ off again any time soon, ain’t that right, Kate?”
“That’s right,” Katherine said earnestly, “and I’m sorry I worried you.”
“So long as you keep that promise,” Bertha said soberly. “Your pa couldn’t stand losin’ you a second time, and the worry alone could set him back.”
“I swear, it won’t happen again.”
“He’s been sayin’ he wants to eat lunch with you two at the kitchen table but I’m not sure he’s strong enough. Whatta ya think, Sheriff?”
“I think we should let him try.”
“In that case I’ll leave you to help him while I get the table set,” she said with a happy smile, then impulsively stepped forward and wrapped her arms around Katherine. “Real glad you’re back safe.”
Releasing her, slightly embarrassed, Bertha turned and hurried down the hall.
“Kate,” Rhett said softly. “I need to talk to your pa privately for a minute.”
“Then I’ll go upstairs and freshen up and meet you in the kitchen, but if you think Pa is still too weak, we can have lunch with him in his bedroom.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll make sure he doesn’t overdo.”
Kissing her softly, he headed into Clarence’s bedroom. The older man was sitting propped up with his dressing gown laid across the foot of the bed.
“Rhett, I was about to call for Jibbman so he could go find you. I wanna have lunch with you and Kate at the table. I sure hope you can stay.”
“I can, and that’s why I’m here.”
“Katherine’s been up in her room all mornin’,” Clarence grinned. “It’s sure good to have her back in the house; anyway, tell me, how did it all go at the hotel?”
“Just as I’d planned, but you should know that your willful girl snuck outta here and hid so she could watch. I found her behind the dinin’ room door.”
“No! She’s as bad as her mother was. I couldn’t pin that woman down even after thirty years of marriage, but the truth is, that was one of the things I loved about her. I never knew what she was gonna do.”
A wistful look had come into his eyes, and Rhett sat on the edge of the bed, hoping it might bring him some comfort.
“I reckon you must miss her a whole lot.”
“It’s real hard, and I’m not sure I’ll ever get over it, but I reckon it’s about time I stopped wallowin’. I told Kate earlier that she needed to look to the future, and I should do the same.”
“About that,” Rhett said, lowering his voice, “I asked her to marry me.”
“You what? You did? Criminy!”
“We wanna get hitched right away. I’m thinkin’ as soon as this business with Johnson is over.”
“You have made me the happiest man, just the happiest man,” Clarence beamed. “Makes me wanna jump outta this bed and cut dirt tellin’ everyone.”
“You can’t be the happiest man, Clarence, cos I am.”
“I reckon we’re gonna be fightin’ over that.”
“I dunno what you’re gonna be fightin’ over,” Bertha said, stepping into the room, “but if you wanna have lunch at the table it’s ready.”
“You betcha!” Clarence said eagerly. “The sheriff and Kate, they’re gettin’ hitched. Ain’t no way I’m stickin’ in this bed.”
“Oh, my, what wonderful news. I’ll make us a special cake for our supper tonight. You’ll have to come back here, Sheriff.”
“Wouldn’t miss one of your cakes, Bertha! You ready to get on your feet, Clarence?”
“Sure am. Might be a bit wobbly at first, but I’ll make it.”
With Rhett supporting him, Clarence made it into the hallway before announcing that he could go the extra distance under his own steam, and as Katherine came down the stairs, she saw her father walking into the kitchen. Joyfully she caught up, and the happy trio were soon sitting around the table talking about the exciting news of their pending nuptials, but as Bertha served the food, Rhett changed the subject.
“Tell us what you know about Nate’s business, Kate. Did he ever talk about the folks who worked for him? Do you know what kinda business he had?”
“He never mentioned anyone who worked for him, not once. When people came to the house, which was all the time, he called them clients, but I have no idea what made them clients, though at parties and such he was treated like a hero.”
“That is so strange,” Rhett frowned. “You have no idea?”
“None, though there was one time…” she said thoughtfully.
“It’s probably nothing, but Nate had gone off with one of these clients of his, and I was chatting with his wife. She said that Nate was making so much money for her husband, they were planning on visiting Great Britain in the summer.”
“Is that right?” Clarence murmured, a heavy frown crossing his brow. “Did she say how he was makin’ them money?”
“Something about an investment, but then Nate and her husband came back. Like always, the minute they were gone Nate started talking about how stupid they were.”
“That’s what he said,” Clarence pressed, “that they were stupid?”
“Yes, but he said that about everyone. All the people who came to the house for dinner, everyone at the parties, he never said anything nice about anyone, except to their faces of course.”
“What are you thinkin’, Clarence?” Rhett asked, spying something in the older man’s eyes. “I can see there’s somethin’ rattling around your head.”
“Yep. I reckon I know how this man makes his dollars, and those clients of his would skin him alive if they found out.”
“Tell us!” Katherine said excitedly. “Please, Daddy, I’m dying to know.”
“Hmm, how do I explain this? If I said to you, give me a hundred dollars and you’ll make ten dollars a month, every month, what would you say?”
“That’s easy,” Rhett replied. “I’d give you a hundred dollars. In a year I’d have a hundred and twenty dollars more.”
“Right, but where would I get that ten dollars a month to pay you?”
“I dunno. Investments, like Nate does?”
“But what investment is gonna pay you ten dollars a month, and pay me for my trouble… guaranteed?”
“You got me. I dunno much about stuff like that, but I imagine it’d be hard to find.”
“More like impossible to find,” Clarence said soberly, leaning across the table, “so how do I pay you that ten dollars every month? I find me another man to give me another hundred dollars for ten dollars a month, and another one, and another and another. Pretty soon I’d have a whole lotta money, and after a while, those same folks thinkin’ their money is growin’ would give me even more.”
“But what if someone wanted their money back?”
“One person, two people, it don’t matter, but if everyone came clammerin’ I’d be in a pickle that’d choke me.”
“Daddy, are you sayin’ that’s why everyone treats him like such an important man, because they think he’s making them money?”
“Yep, and that’s why he calls them stupid. He’s laughin’ at them the whole time.”
“I can’t believe it,” Rhett muttered, shaking his head. “I just can’t believe it. I shouldn’t be sayin’ that, cos I can. He’s such a slippery, sharp-talkin’ snake-oil salesman.”
“And that’s the kinda man it takes to pull it off,” Clarence declared.
“You’re so smart, Daddy. How did you figure that out so quickly?”
“Don’t give me too much credit. Thing is, when I was a boy, a fella came into this town and tried to pull the same stunt, but my pa, he was too clever by half. There weren’t a lotta folks here then, and Pa called a town meetin’ and showed everyone what was goin’ on. They gave that slicker a lickin’ and ran him outta here.”
“But how do we know for sure Nate’s swindlin’ folks like that,” Rhett asked, “and if he is, whatta we gonna do about it? How can we fry his hide?”
“There’s only one way, Rhett. You gotta go to San Francisco.”
“San Francisco?” Katherine declared. “Why? For how long?”
“Rhett’s gotta get into that man’s home and do some diggin’. There’s bound to be records somewhere, and a buncha money stashed away. How long? I’m guessin’ it won’t take much time to find what he’s lookin’ for, so a day to get there, and day to do what he has to do, and a day to get back.”
“Rhett, I want to go with you.”
“I don’t even know where I’m gonna start once I arrive, but regardless, you’re still gettin’ better, Kate, and you’ve got a weddin’ to plan.”
“He’s right,” Clarence said firmly, “and he don’t need to be worryin’ about you. Listen up, Rhett, and lemme tell you what you gotta look for once you get there.”
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