A short time later, dressed as Father O’Brien, Tucker appeared to be lounging in a chair reading his bible. The thundering sound of hoof beats didn’t stir him from his spot, and when four scruffy-looking men burst inside, he didn’t move, but lifted his eyes from the pages of the good book. It took him only seconds to size them up; the two who remained loitering by the door were young cowpokes seeking glory, the two in front were as mean as rattlesnakes and just as deadly.
“You Father O’Brien?” one of the older men demanded.
“I believe, if you look around, you’ll see I am the only priest here,” Tucker said sardonically in his thick Irish accent. “It would be a likely conclusion, and since I am bound not to lie, I cannot say I’m any other than who I am.”
“I dunno what the heck ya just said,” the man grunted, glaring at him, “but ya gotta come with us. Our boss wants a word.”
“I’m afraid I must decline your very gracious invitation, but he is welcome to visit here. I could brew him a cup of proper tea. I don’t travel anywhere without it.”
“Ya better stop with the smart-aleck remarks and get on yer feet!”
“As I said, I must decline your most gracious offer.”
“Ya don’t get to say no to Patrick McGill,” the man snarled, moving closer to him, “and if ya don’t get outta that chair right now, yer gonna be sorry.”
“Are you threatening a man of God?” Tucker asked, his eyes challenging the nasty piece of work through his spectacles.
“Are you sure that’s something you want to do?”
“Ya sure are a stubborn coot, but yer comin’ with us, like it or not. Come on, Davy, help me get ‘im up.”
Two shots suddenly blasted through the room and both men dropped to the floor, one grabbing his shoulder, the other his thigh. The speed with which Tucker had pulled his gun from under the bible had allowed no time for either of them to react, and the young cowpokes at the door froze in stunned shock.
“Snap out of it, boys,” Tucker said sharply, raising his pistol and pointing it at them. “Your friends are in a bad way and need to get to a doctor, but before you help them to their horses, would you please relieve them of their guns and place them on the kitchen table, along with yours as well, obviously.”
“Since when do priests shoot people?” groaned the man who had been hit in the thigh.
“You’re Davy, if I recall. Well, Davy, I shoot only to defend myself,” Tucker replied, “and be grateful I am a priest, or right now you’d be turning as cold as a leprechaun in winter.”
Tucker’s voice may have sounded casual, but every nerve in his body was sparking. Though the two young wannabe gangsters were still shaking in their boots, they could easily out-maneuver him if they had the guts and the know-how. Luckily they had neither, and somewhat unsteady on their feet, they collected the weapons, placed them on the table, then moved back to help the wounded men to their feet. Watching them, Tucker silently sighed a breath of relief.
“Don’t forget to pass along my invitation to your boss. He’s welcome to join me for a cup of good, strong Irish tea.”
“He’s gonna come here all right,” one of the cowpokes said as he helped the gunman who had been shot in the arm, “but when he leaves, yer gonna be lyin’ on the floor dead meat.”
“I dunno how they do things in Ireland, but here, ya don’t get to walk away from somethin’ like this,” the other cowpoke added, almost falling down from the weight of the man who’d been shot in the leg.
Tucker didn’t respond, but as they struggled through the front door, he rose to his feet and followed them out, ordering them to stay still while he removed the rifles strapped to their saddles.
“Yer gonna be so sorry, old man,” the young cowpoke continued, staring at him with hatred in his eyes.
“Son, it’s not too late to turn your life around. If you don’t, very soon you’ll either be pushing up daisies, or behind bars with men who will do unspeakable things to you. Think about it.”
It was fleeting, but Tucker saw a flicker of belief in the boy’s eyes. Had the comment made a difference?
“If you ever want a private word with the man upstairs, all you have to do is close your eyes and pray,” Tucker added, stepping away from the horses. “Now I’d suggest you get your friends some help before they both bleed to death.”
The boy mumbled something Tucker couldn’t make out, then he and his buddy managed to get the injured men into their saddles. Not wanting to take any chances, Tucker stood on the porch until their horses had carried them out of sight, then moving back inside the cabin, he took off his spectacles and let out a heavy sigh; it had been a close call. If the two young lads had been tough, experienced gunmen, in all likelihood he’d be lying on the floor filled with lead.
Grabbing a mug, he poured himself some coffee and gathered his thoughts. He had dealt with men like Patrick McGill in the past. Though they were violent, most had a talent for pondering and planning. When his men returned badly wounded, Patrick would know Father O’Brien was no ordinary priest. There was also the matter of the attack on Conan. Would Patrick assume there was a connection? Most probably, but as far as Patrick knew, it hadn’t been a priest who had attacked his brother.
Patrick was planning to burn down the cabin on Saturday night. Would he set the fire with Father O’Brien and whoever else was there trapped inside? Tucker grinned. It was a likely scenario, but whatever McGill had planned, it was he who would be in for the surprise.
Tucker began planning the ambush he’d have waiting. He could use the thicket to hide his men, and also have gunmen hidden in the barn, but he’d need to make sure there was no chance of anyone being locked inside if the gang planned to set that aflame as well.
Deciding to walk up to the trees to do some reconnaissance, he quickly pulled off the flowing robes, then peeled off the eyebrows, mustache, and beard, picked up the spectacles and tucked them safely away in a drawer. Heading outside, he paused on the porch and turned his eyes toward the trees; he could not believe what he saw. Dolly was scurrying toward the trees. He broke into a run, and though she was hurrying, there was no chance she’d get away.
“Dolly!” he yelled, wanting her to know he was there.
He was about to grab her, but as angry as he was, he didn’t want her to think some stranger was about to accost her.
“Where did you come from?” she squealed, staring over her shoulder.
“I’m gonna be askin’ the questions,” he scowled, catching up to her and clutching her elbow. “What the blazes are you doin’ here? Were you down at the cabin? Were you spyin’ on me?”
“Uh, no, not really, I mean, I saw the priest, but I didn’t see you,” she said hastily. “Where were you? Why didn’t you help him?”
“I’m gonna wallop your bottom so dang hard,” he growled, pulling her into the cover of the trees, “and this time it’s gonna be my hand on your bare backside.”
“No! Wait! Please!”
“Stop your caterwaulin’,” he barked, encircling her waist with one arm while deftly undoing the buttons at the top of her split skirt. “There’s no excuse that’s gonna get you outta this.”
“Stop it, no, please!”
“You need a proper spankin’, and maybe if I’d given it to you the first time, right off,” he declared, yanking her skirt down, “I wouldn’t be dealin’ with you now.”
Dolly was utterly horrified. Her split skirt was suddenly around her knees exposing her thin cotton drawers, and Tucker was dropping onto a fallen tree trunk and pulling her over his lap.
“Please, let me explain,” she wailed. “Please, Tucker.”
“Sir,” he shouted, landing his hand with a sharp smack. “You’re back to Sir!”
“You go ahead an’ yell, missy, I don’t mind a bit,” he said tersely, landing his hot hand with smack after smack. “Seems to me you’ve been needing a real hard spankin’ for a long time. The other ones didn’t do much good, and I’m gonna make sure this one’s gonna count!”
“Ow, please, it hurts, stop, it hurts.”
“It’s about to hurt a whole lot more,” he declared, loosening the string at the waist of her drawers and peeling them back to expose her bottom.
“Oh, no, no, no,” she wailed, burying her head in her hands. “I can’t believe you did that.”
“And I can’t believe you came on down to my cabin after you swore you wouldn’t,” he retorted. “I told you what would happen, and young lady, I keep my promises.”
He hand rose and fell in a flurry of stinging swats, and though she yelped and wriggled she was no match for his strong hold. Even as he raised his leg and placed it over the back of hers, he didn’t miss a beat, and as the minutes ticked by, he increased the force and speed of his flattened spanking palm.
Dolly was beside herself. It was bad enough that he’d lowered her skirt, but to expose her bare bottom was unthinkable. His slaps were landing with speed and carried a mighty sting, and as much as she squirmed her hips to avoid the punishment, it was impossible to evade his scalding hand.
“Please, please, I’m begging you,” she howled, “no more. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”
He had been smacking her naked skin with vigor, and he paused to study his handiwork. Her cheeks were crimson, and he knew they were on fire.
“Why did you disobey me? I’m sure your father warned you not to come here as well,” he scolded. “I’m gonna be marchin’ you home when I’m finished with you. Maybe he’ll give you another dose of discipline when he hears what you’ve done. Do you know how dang dangerous that was?”
“Ooh, my bottom stings so bad,” she muttered, trying to put her hands behind her. “Please, no more, please.”
“Answer me,” he growled, slapping his hand down again. “What were you doin’?”
“The truth, and girl, if you lie to me, I’ll blister your backside, you understand?”
“It’s so embarrassing,” she whimpered. “I can’t tell you, I just can’t.”
“More embarrassin’ than me whippin’ your bare behind?”
“Maybe… kind of…”
“Tell me, and tell me now, or so help me I’ll spank you till the sun goes down.”
“I wanted you to catch me.”
Her voice had been a whisper, and he wasn’t sure if he’d heard her right.
“What did you just say?”
“I wanted you to catch me.”
“Wait… are you tellin’ me you wanted this spankin’?”
“No, I mean, sort of, I mean, not so hard.”
Tucker didn’t know what to say. His head was reeling. He’d spanked many a woman’s bottom for punishment, and there had been times he’d playfully put a woman over his knee for their mutual pleasure, but this was a first.
“Tell me more,” he demanded. “What exactly were you thinkin’, and don’t you leave nothin’ out.”
“I saw that woman come up and talk to you, and I wanted to know what it was about, but mostly I, uh, wanted to see you, I wanted your, uh, attention, and I thought if you saw me snooping you’d come out and scold me, and spank me a little, but when I got to the cabin and looked through the window the only person I saw was the priest, then those men came in, and it was so scary. I waited until they took off then I started coming back here. I didn’t know where you were, you’d vanished, and I was scared of those men coming back, and the priest, I didn’t want him to see me, I wanted you to see me, but you were gone.”
Her confession had tumbled out of her in a rambling torrent, and when she’d finished, Tucker had no doubt about Dolly’s feelings for him. She had fallen, and hard. He’d felt it when he’d been holding her the night before, but hadn’t fully realized just how deeply she cared. Staring down at her reddened bottom, he spied the glistening need between her thighs. A surge of energy pulsed through his cock, and he quickly pulled up her drawers and ordered her to her feet.
“Tie your drawers and pull up your skirt,” he said gruffly.
Unsure how to handle the unexpected moment, he rose to his feet and looked away as she fastened her buttons, but when he looked back and saw her flushed face, he felt his heart swell.
“I’m sorry, Sir,” she mumbled, looking up at him with woeful eyes. “I know it was wrong. I knew was wrong when I did it.”
He didn’t know how it happened, but his arms were suddenly around her and he was pulling her into his chest.
“Yes, Dolly, it was wrong, very wrong, and very dangerous,” he murmured, loving the feel of her body dissolving into his, “and you must not do anything like it again.”
“I won’t, and I mean it this time,” she whispered, thinking that being his arms was the most wonderful thing in the whole world and she never, ever wanted to leave them.
“You’d better,” he warned, closing his eyes and inhaling her sweet feminine scent. “I don’t want anything bad to happen to you.”
He meant the words, he meant them from deep within his soul, and he clenched his teeth as the unexpected ache for her sent the blood pulsing through his veins.
“Really?” she whispered. “Does that mean you care about me?”
“Of course I care about you,” he said softly, then pulling back, he cupped her chin and tilted her head up. “You may be a brat, you may be willful and stubborn and have a sassy mouth on you, but yeah, Dolly, I care.”
“Tucker? Can I call you Tucker now?”
“For a girl who has a stingin’ backside, you sure do push your luck.”
“But can I?”
“Not for the moment, but I’ll think on it. If you wanna call me Tucker, you’ve gotta earn it back, you’ve gotta be on your best behavior, you understand me?”
“Yes, Sir,” she nodded, feeling a strange, wonderful wash of moisture between her legs.
“I need to do the job your pa is payin’ me for, but after Spring Junction is under control, I’ll talk to him about callin’ on you.”
He’d thought about it the night before, but thinking about it and actually saying it out loud, that was something else. He was a rolling stone, he went where the work was, he didn’t have it in him to put down sticks with a woman, or did he?
Staring into her eyes, for the first time he saw her bright blue pupils had tiny flecks of green, then he noticed a sprinkle of freckles across the bridge of her nose. He wanted to kiss her, he wanted to kiss her badly, but he didn’t get the chance. Raising herself up on to her toes, she planted her lips on his, and any doubts he might have had about pursuing her evaporated like steam from a kettle.
The kiss was everything Dolly had ever dreamed it would be. A delicious fluttery feeling was moving through her stomach, her knees were wobbly, and her heart began thumping against her chest. She was sure if Tucker let her go she would crumple to the ground from the sheer joy of it. His lips were soft and moist, but he was kissing her ferociously as if his very life depended upon it, and when he slowly pulled back she fell against him, breathless and filled with an aching need.
His voice was less than a whisper, but in the quiet stillness, under the canopy of the tree’s mighty branches, she had heard it as loudly as if it had been shouted in her ear.
“I feel so weak,” she murmured, “so weak and so wonderful all at the same time.”
“You need to get yourself home,” he mumbled, but when he attempted to step back and release her, she clung to him, refusing to let him go.
“No, please, hold me for just a few more minutes,” she whimpered. “It feels so good; it feels better than anything I’ve ever felt before.”
Her full, ripe breasts were pressing against his chest, and his mind kept replaying the sight of her luscious bottom. He wanted to throw her on the ground, strip her bare, and feast his eyes on the glory of her full nakedness.
“You don’t understand,” he croaked, gripping her upper arms and pushing her back. “I’ve gotta leave, and if you don’t get back to your house pretty soon, your father will be sendin’ out a posse. Do you really wanna be found here?”
“Does that mean you won’t tell him I was here?”
“I’m still thinkin’ on it, but not right now. Like I said, I’ve gotta go, and you’d best get your burnt backside into your saddle before I take it into my head to whip it some more.”
“Why would you do that?”
“’Cos you’re arguin’, that’s why, and if you and me are gonna get along, you’ve gotta learn to do as you’re told.”
The lips that had just consumed her entire being were now set tightly together in grim determination, and staring into his eyes, she saw a steely glint. He meant what he said, and the last thing she wanted was another trip over his knee; her bottom was stinging plenty, as if it had just been set upon by a thousand bees.
“I’m going,” she said earnestly. “I’m sorry, I’ll learn not to argue so much, I promise.”
“It’d be better for both of us, and to make sure of it, you’re gonna do somethin’ for me.”
“When you get home, you’re gonna fetch your hairbrush, take off your skirt and drawers, look at your red backside in a mirror, then swat yourself on each cheek, hard!”
“What? Why would I do that?” she protested, her face flushing fiercely. “I’m already so sore.”
“You’ll do it because I’ve told you to, and you’ll do it again before you go to bed, and when you get up in the mornin’.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Tonight and tomorrow mornin’ are ‘cos you’re still carryin’ on.”
“Don’t you want me askin’ your pa if I can call on you after Spring Junction is back to normal?”
“Yes, yes, of course I do.”
“Then do as I say.”
“This isn’t fair,” she frowned. “You’re telling me to punish myself.”
“And you’re still arguin’,” he scolded. “Make up your mind, Dolly. Do you want me to call on you, or not?”
“You know I do.”
“Then you’ll do as I say. That’s how it works. The only way I can keep you safe in this world is if you listen. When you don’t, you’re gonna be punished. It’s real simple. Doesn’t your pa punish you?”
“But you’re not my pa.”
“Now you’re just bein’ difficult,” he scowled, “and I’m gettin’ real tired of this.”
She was on the verge of pushing him too far, and she wasn’t even sure why she was being so tiresome; reaching out, she touched her hand to his chest.
“I’m sorry, Sir,” she said softly. “I don’t know why I was being so irksome. I’ll do as you say.”
“You were tryin’ my patience, and that’s not a good idea,” he said sternly.
“Will you walk with me over to Daisy?”
“Where is she?”
“She’s just over… oh, no, where did she go?”
“Dang it,” Tucker grunted. “Does she usually run off?”
“No, but maybe the shots scared her; they sure scared me.”
“Isn’t this just a fine mess?” he grimaced. “She could be anywhere. I don’t even see a trail here.”
“There isn’t one, not really, but I know the way through to the other side and so does she.”
“Show me,” he said hastily. “She’ll probably head for home, and if she gets there without you on her back, you’ll have some explainin’ to do.”
“That’s the last thing I need.”
“Let’s see if we can find her.”
Dolly led the way, and they hurried through the trees, vainly searching for signs of the runaway mare, and when they broke from the thicket into the field below the house, they spied her cantering up the hill.
“Heavens,” Dolly groaned. “Now I’ll have to walk all the way back.”
“Good,” Tucker said sternly. “That’s the perfect end to your punishment. A sore bottom and a tough walk home.”
“You’re very strict,” she declared, staring up at him and making a face.
“You betcha, now go on. That’s quite a climb. You’d best get started, and look at the bright side.”
“What bright side?”
“The walk’ll give you time to think about what you’re gonna say to your pa when he’s told your horse arrived home without you.”
“I’ll tell him I fell off, of course,” she grumbled. “What else am I going to say?”
“The truth,” he frowned. “You’ll only make it worse by lyin’.”
“Only if he finds out!”
“That ain’t no way to think,” he scolded, “and things have a way of gettin’ out, you know that.”
“Maybe you’re right,” she mumbled, dropping her eyes to the ground.
“Go on home and think about it.”
“Will I see you again soon? Will you come with the priest tomorrow morning?”
“Nope, I’ve got other fish to fry, but I might pop up tomorrow evenin’. I might even stay for dinner,” he said, shooting her a wink.
“That would be so good,” she exclaimed, her furrowed brow disappearing as she broke into a smile. “I’ll make sure you’re invited.”
“You’ll do no such thing. You leave that to me!”
“Yes, Tuck… sorry, yes, Sir.”
“Time to start up that hill. I’ve gotta go.”
She impulsively pecked him on the cheek, then taking a deep breath, she headed off across the field.
As he watched the gentle sway of her hips, picturing her red bottom beneath the split skirt, he placed his hand over his rampant cock. He needed relief and he needed it urgently. Deciding to make a quick stop at the watering hole, he started off, but paused as he saw Dolly’s mare disappear at the top of the hill; she’d made it home. He wasn’t surprised when a moment later, two ranch hands on horseback started down the slope. Spying Dolly, they began shouting at her. Her arduous climb may have ended, but Tucker hoped a lesson had been learned.
It was a short trek through the thicket to the meadow, and when he reached the edge of the trees, he leaned against a hefty trunk. Without even dropping his trousers he pulled out his very stiff member, and closing his eyes he let his mind wander; immediately Dolly’s image materialized.
She was standing before him in a thin white transparent gown, her cherry red nipples atop her beautiful breasts clearly visible. As he vigorously rubbed his cock, he imagined giving them each a sharp tweak and watching them pucker. He could almost feel her flesh as he pictured himself molding her mounds, then traveling his hand under her gown and between her legs, his fingers explored her seam, finding her pussy deliciously wet. It was enough to send him over the edge, and he groaned as his cock began shooting his essence over his hand, spasming until it fell flaccid and spent. Letting out a deep breath, he slid to the ground.
How had she slipped into his heart? It had happened quietly and covertly, and while he had cared for women in the past, he had never felt the intense passion toward any of them that he was feeling toward Dolly. It was unnerving and slightly alarming, and he wasn’t quite sure what to do about it, but his reverie lasted only a short time. If he was going to stay alive and rid Spring Junction of its vermin, he needed to stay focused. The next few days were critical.
It wasn’t unusual for him to wrestle control of a community away from the hands of criminals within a week of his arrival. If it took much longer than that, it usually meant trouble. Given a dollop of luck and careful planning, hardened criminals could be swiftly harnessed and sent on their way. The key was to outwit them, not outgun them. They had to be wounded, yes, and sent off with their tail between their legs, but they needed to be convinced their foe was smarter than them, and no matter their numbers or firepower, they had to believe they’d never win.
Rising to his feet, he ambled across the meadow to the water’s edge, peeled off his clothes, hid them under the same bush he’d used before, and waded into the cool, clear, refreshing pond. Diving into the depths, he could feel his soul being rejuvenated, and as he popped his head above the water and gazed around at the idyllic spot, he felt a wave of peace. Everything would work itself out, he could feel it. Spring Junction would be safe once more, and Dolly? Dolly was a beautiful package he would lovingly unwrap.
To Dolly’s great relief, when she walked into the house she discovered her father was busy working in his study, and had been all afternoon. Hurrying up the stairs, she moved swiftly to her bedroom, made sure her door was locked, then stripping off her split skirt and drawers, she peered at her punished bottom in her mirror. It was red, very red, and still hot and sore, but determined to follow Tucker’s instructions, she picked up her hairbrush and delivered the first swat. It hurt, and she grit her teeth to stop from crying out, then rubbed it, trying to soothe the freshly burning sting.
“You stupid girl for arguing,” she muttered, then moving the hairbrush to her other hand, she repeated the smack on the opposite cheek.
The sting was significant, but not as bad as the first; using her left hand had been awkward. Placing the brush back on her dresser, she couldn’t help but smile. She was crazy about Tucker, more than she could express, but why? And why did she like the burn in her bottom?
Flopping down on her bed, she closed her eyes and relived the amazing, incredible, wonderful kiss. A warm shiver shuddered through her body, and rolling on her side, she wished she was lying next him, wrapped up in his powerful arms.
“Tucker,” she whispered, “what’s happening to me?”
She wanted to talk to someone, and through the years that someone had been Maude, but Maude had become a fuddy-duddy. Who else could she trust? Who would listen to her and not scold her for disobeying her father yet again? Then it dawned her; the priest. Priests weren’t allowed to reveal the secrets people told them, and they were wise. Yes! The priest. When he arrived in the morning, she would find a way to get him alone and ask him for guidance.
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