When notorious outlaw Sonny Shade is mortally wounded in a shootout with the law, he surprises everyone by informing them that he has left a will designating a guardian for his daughter. A judge accepts the document and decrees Rafe Mallory the guardian to Amanda Rose Shade. He sends two deputies to escort her to her new home.
Mandy is shocked when two deputies appear at her isolated cabin, inform her of her father’s death and carry her off to a man she has never heard of before, let alone met. She does not go easily.
Rafe is angry at having his concentration broken when his doorbell rings. Expecting his willful little sister and prepared to issue some well deserved discipline, the former lawman is shocked to discover a pair of deputies and a struggling prisoner, cursing up a storm. He is handed the court order as he is informed of his new responsibility, the handcuff is transferred to his arm and the rapidly departing deputies declare that she is all his – for the next three years, no less. She? Rafe tries to call the deputies back, but they refuse any further involvement. They have fulfilled the judge’s orders.
Will the stern lawman be able to take his new, recalcitrant ward in hand?
Publisher’s Note: This historical romance contains themes of domestic discipline.
Rafe cursed when he heard the knock on the front door. The last damned thing he wanted or needed right now was an interruption. He promptly decided to ignore whoever it was, and keep on working. He finally had the characters where he wanted them.
“Damn!” he muttered darkly a moment later, as he realized his concentration was lost. He got to his feet in one graceful movement. “So help me, if Katie’s come to annoy me for a week, I’m going to take off my belt and send her on her way with a sore butt!” His baby sister didn’t know the meaning of propriety, and their parents seemed unable or unwilling to deal with the young woman. She never sent a telegram or letter and asked if she could visit; and why bother with taking the stagecoach when she could flop a saddle on that wild stallion of hers and make the three-day trip all by herself!
By the time Rafe reached the door, he was mad enough to bite a nail in half – or to take a naughty little sister to task. He opened the door with a scowl on his face, and then blinked in surprise when he saw a deputy marshal standing there nervously.
“Are you Rafe Mallory?” the deputy asked hopefully.
“I am,” he reluctantly conceded, quietly observing the second deputy’s struggles with the ill-kempt prisoner who kept kicking him.
“Thank God!” the man said in a heartfelt prayer of thanksgiving. “This brat is all yours, and you’re welcome to her.”
Her? Rafe looked a bit more closely at the person he’d mistaken for a young boy. “All mine?” Rafe questioned. “I don’t understand.”
“Her pa was Sonny Shade. A couple of the boys killed him in a shoot out, and it seems that Sonny left a will. He named you his kid’s guardian until she’s of age. Judge Johnson ordered Mac and me to bring her to you. We have, and she’s all yours. Can’t figure what an ex-lawman like yourself had to do with the likes of Sonny Shade though?” the man asked with a penetrating stare.
“I arrested him and he spent a few nights in my jail. But that sure as hell isn’t enough for the fool to name me guardian to his kid. You just take her back and tell the judge I said no.”
“Can’t do that, and wouldn’t if I could. This here girl is nothing but trouble. Cussing all the time, hitting and kicking, won’t do a damned thing she’s told. Can’t even get her to take a bath!” He sidestepped when she tried to break free of the other man’s hold to lunge at him. “Here’s the court papers, and here’s a letter from Sonny Shade. His lawyer said he wrote it about six years ago.”
Rafe had no choice but to accept the papers. Six years ago, that was about the time he’d arrested Shade – before he was notorious.
The deputy unlocked one of the cuffs, and immediately snapped it on Rafe’s arm, trying to dodge the girl’s teeth as he did so. He quickly handed Rafe the key, saying, “My ma raised me not to put a hand to a girl. Reckon that’s why the judge picked me to help bring this one here, but she needs a good whipping – or two.” That said, the deputies mounted and took off, anxious to get to the closest town and have a drink.
Rafe was abruptly aware of two things. The girl smelled like rotten eggs; and she was trembling in fear.
“You don’t need to fear me, little girl,” he said quietly, wondering where Katie was when he needed her.
“Prove it. Let me go!” she pleaded, her green eyes blazing at him with suppressed fury.
“I intend to take these cuffs off,” he told her, and quickly read her intention to run the very second he did so. “You have no mount. The closest town is a very, very long walk. I can out run you. I’m stronger than you are. And I believe in spanking bratty little girls.” He watched her eyes narrow, and he smiled. “In plain words, it’s going to upset me if I have to chase you down, and I’m going to bare your backside and take a switch to it if you put me to the trouble. Understand?” When she glared at him, he added, “I guess you might as well know right now, I’m not as nice as those deputies. You kick me, and you won’t sit for a while afterwards.”
Enough was enough! Mandy let loose with a string of invective, casting doubt on Rafe’s birth, his mother, his masculinity, and consigning him to the fiery depths. The longer she talked, the madder she got. It was so unfair, she wasn’t a child! Why couldn’t anyone see that? She did the only thing she could do. She hauled off and slapped the tall man right across his handsome cheek. It was only when she saw the whitened imprint of her hand start to turn a fiery red that her temper cooled enough for her to realize what she’d done.
Mandy tried to pull away from the damning look in his dark eyes, but the cuffs prevented it. To her shock, he pulled her closer, took the key, and released his side, then hers. Mandy ran for her life.
Rafe gave chase, surprised at her speed. She was almost as good as Katie, but he was better.
Mandy squealed when he caught her, and then grunted when he picked her up and tossed her over his broad shoulder. “Put me down, you bastard!” Her hat fell off her head, and Mandy’s long red braid trailed the ground behind them.
Rafe didn’t say a word. He marched to the house, through the front door, and into the kitchen. He used his booted foot to pull out a chair, and within seconds, he was seated and the struggling little brat was face down over his lap. He brought his hand down on the seat of her britches with considerable satisfaction, and continued to spank her while her curses got louder and louder.
Mandy was beyond furious. No one had ever dared to put a hand to her when she was a child, and now? Why, she was simply too old. It was starting to hurt, her poor bottom felt like she’d stood too close to a fire. “Damn you, stop it!” she yelled angrily. “You son of a bitch! Whore son!”
“That’s it,” Rafe announced loud enough to be heard over her curses.
Mandy abruptly found herself on her feet. She was so thankful to have the painful assault on her bottom stopped, that it took her a moment to realize what the big man was planning next. Her green eyes widened in horror. “No!” she protested.
“Little girls do not use language like that in this house, and when they do, they get their mouth washed out with soap.” Rafe hand pumped water into the dishpan, and was wetting a bar of soap. “Open your mouth,” he ordered sternly.
Mutely, Mandy shook her head no.
“Little girl, this is going to happen, one way or another. Then I’m going to finish tanning you. You have two options right now. Open your mouth, and take your soaping. Or, resist me, get your britches lowered to your knees and a wooden spoon used on your bare butt until you ask me to soap your mouth. Then, you will still have the other spanking to finish.” He gave her a moment to think, and then asked, “Well? Easy or hard?”
Mandy wanted to kill him. How dare he treat a grown woman like a child?
“Fine. We do it the hard way,” Rafe said calmly, dropping the bar of soap in the dishpan of water.
Before Mandy could protest, he unfastened her pants and whisked them down past her knees. Her drawers were next, in spite of her struggles to prevent the humiliation. No man had ever see her bare before, and she felt tears of shame and mortification flood her eyes.
Rafe grabbed a wooden spoon, too intent on meting out the punishment to realize the girl was crying already. He tucked her under his arm, pulled up the shirt tail, and then had second thoughts. He suddenly realized the bottom in front of him wasn’t one of a “little girl.” He dropped the shirt tail, and turned her to face him, the tears of shame on her face making him feel guilty as hell.
“Please, can I pull up my clothes if I take the soaping?” she asked in a small voice.
Rafe nodded, more than anxious for her to cover herself.
Mandy wasted no time, not bothering to tuck in her shirt. Tasting soap was a small price to pay to keep her dignity, she decided.
“I don’t even know your first name,” Rafe said guiltily.
“It’s Mandy,” she answered, wondering how long he was going to make her wait.
“How old are you, Mandy?” he asked.
“I’m eighteen, and I don’t need a guardian,” she informed him. “I can take care of myself.”
“You act like a bratty twelve-year-old,” Rafe scolded her. “Cursing and hitting, kicking.”
Mandy stomped her foot. “How’d you like it if some old judge told you that you had to go and live with someone you don’t even know?”
“I wouldn’t,” Rafe admitted with a gentle smile. “But, I’m afraid you’re stuck with the decision.”
“You can go straight to hell!” She flung the words at him. “You can’t watch me day and night.”
Rage slowly counted to ten, then said, “It seems as though your daddy forgot to teach you how to be a lady, Mandy. First lesson, no more cussing. Open up!” He sharply swatted her bottom.
Mandy looked at him in shock. “I’m too ol—” she started to say, but the soap was in her mouth just that quick, and she was trying to spit it out. It tasted awful, and soon her tongue and lips were burning.
“Do you like the taste of soap, Mandy?” Rafe asked knowingly. “Best cure for swearing that I know of.” Her eyes were tearing again, and Rafe continued to scold her, holding her head with his left hand, and the bar of soap in the other.
Mandy wanted to gag, and she spit furiously when Rafe finally released her. She reached for the tin cup hanging there, but Rafe stayed her hand.
“We aren’t through.” He put the soap in her hand. “Work up a lather,” he ordered. When she continued to look at him, he swatted her again, and she jumped. “Work up a lather, young lady, and do it now!”
Mandy got the soap on her hands, and when there was a good bit, she was shocked when Rafe said, “Open your mouth real wide, and wash every inch of your teeth, gums, tongue – your entire mouth.”
Many plunged her hands in the water. “No, I won’t!”
Rafe picked up the wooden spoon and after twenty smacks and twenty squeals, he asked, “Are you ready to finish the soaping, Mandy? Or do you need more? Remember, you still have another spanking to finish.”
Mandy hurt, but to soap her own mouth? No, she wouldn’t! Still, when Rafe made the next twenty hurt even more than the first, she realized that she was going to give in. It was only a matter of time.
“Well?” Rafe demanded.
Mandy nodded her head, but quickly realized that Rafe hadn’t seen her. The spoon cracked again and again on the backs of her thighs and Mandy was begging him to let her finish the soaping by the time he finished.
He handed her the soap, and watched in silence as she lathered her hands and scrubbed her mouth. He had her use her left hand to vigorously scrub her lips until he was sure she was miserable, and then he filled the cup with fresh, cool water and let her rinse. When she recovered somewhat, he told her, “That is what you can expect for swearing and cursing, little girl, each and every time. Do you understand?”
“A simple ‘yes, sir’, is the expected and appropriate response,” he said gently.
Mandy wasn’t about to argue. She didn’t want another soaping again as long as she lived. Her mouth and lips burned. “Yes, sir.”
“Good,” Rafe said with a smile. “Now we have a spanking to finish. I don’t care if you cry or holler, but you will not curse me. Is that understood?”
“I won’t cuss at you again, but I don’t want any more spanking. I’m already sore,” she told him.
“You’re sore because you didn’t cooperate,” Rafe told her. “The spoon had nothing to do with what you earned originally.” He felt a bit sorry for her. She looked so forlorn. “Do you know why you’re being spanked, Mandy?” he asked.
“Because I hit you,” she replied. “But I only hit you one time. You’ve done a lot more than that to me.”
“It’s not just the slap, little girl. It’s the lack of respect. I won’t put up with that, and it’s best you learn it right now.”
“All right, consider it learned,” Mandy replied. “I hear you loud and clear and I don’t need another spanking.”
“Sorry, little girl. You might as well learn right now that I always finish what I start. I started a spanking, and I’m going to finish it right now.”
He sat on the chair and motioned for her to come to him. She shook her head no and folded her arms over her chest in pure stubbornness. “Mandy, at this moment I’m planning to use my hand on the seat of your britches. If you walk on over here right now, I’ll still do that. If you continue to shake your head no, it’s going to cost you your britches.”
Her eyes widened.
“If you still protest, and I come get you, your spanking will be on your bare bottom. The choice is up to you.”
Mandy remembered her earlier shame. She wasn’t about to go through that again. She walked over to where Rafe sat. He nodded. “Good decision, Mandy,” he complimented her, and she tried not to cry as he placed her over his lap again. She was just too old to be treated like a little kid.
Rafe was tempted to give her a few smacks and call it quits, but decided that he needed to make an impression she would remember. He was positive it was in her best interest.
Mandy was soon kicking and crying as Rafe spanked her sore bottom. She was positive he was never going to stop, and finally, she was pleading. “Rafe, no more! I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” she babbled, promising him she would “Be good.”
Rafe stopped. He wanted it to be a firm lesson, but not so overwhelming that she hated him. He stood her on her feet, and marched her to an empty corner. “I want you to stand here and think about your behavior today and the consequences, Mandy. I want your nose pressed right here, and your hands in front of you. There is to be no rubbing. You will wear that spanking until it goes away on its own. No talking either.”
Mandy heard the big man walk away, and for one fleeting second, she was tempted to run. But the stinging of her backside convinced her to stay right where she was. Besides, he was keeping an eye on her. She could hear him moving around.
For at least the umpteenth time, she cursed Sonny for getting himself shot. He wasn’t much of a father to her, but at least he let her do as she pleased. He never found fault with her when she cursed. Hell, she’d got her quick temper from him. He’d taught her to ride and shoot. He’d sent her to school until she learned to read and write, but she’d hated every minute of it. When she’d refused to go back one day, he’d nodded and they’d packed up and moved on. Out of necessity, Sonny’s hideout was a secluded cabin, a good three-day ride in any direction to civilization. Mandy spent weeks alone, and prided herself on not needing anyone. If only she’d had her gun, or a knife, she wouldn’t be standing here being punished. It was all Sonny’s fault for getting shot, and for sending those damned deputies to fetch her!
Mandy was so deep in thought that it barely registered when Rafe spoke to her. She jumped, and then turned around when he bade her.
Rafe could see that she’d been crying, and he walked over, pulling her close to give her a brotherly hug. “You’ve been through a lot, Mandy, losing your dad, and having your life turned upside down. Let’s put this all behind us now, and move on. You’re safe here with me. I won’t abuse you,” he promised, trying to imagine Katie in a similar situation.
Mandy decided she liked being comforted by this man. He smelled good, and she did feel safe.
“I’ve fixed a bath for you, and while you’re in the tub, I’ll go upstairs and see what I can find of my sister’s for you to put on.”
Mandy backed away, and then shook her head no. “I’m not taking a bath!” she insisted.
“You stink!” Rafe said. “You smell like rotten eggs, and you will take a bath.”
Mandy was insulted. No one… well, Sonny… had ever told her she smelled bad. “I don’t stink!”
“Yes, you do,” Rafe insisted, and could see that her feelings were hurt. “Why don’t you want to bathe?” he asked her.
“It isn’t natural,” she told him matter-of-factly. “It’s a waste of water too!”
“There’s plenty of water here, Mandy. You needn’t worry about that. My father is a doctor and he says bathing daily is a good way to stay healthy.”
Mandy blinked in confusion. She really hated to be dirty and stink. Maybe Sonny was wrong? “Do you take baths?” she asked suspiciously.
“Yes, ma’am, I sure do,” Rafe answered, sensing she was at war with herself.
“Your sister, does she take baths too?”
“Sometimes twice a day.” Rafe shook his head. “She loves to go riding, and loves to bathe afterwards,” he confided.
“All right. I’ll do it then,” Mandy decided.
“The tub is behind that screen, so you’ll have privacy. Take your time, Mandy.” He left the kitchen, and Mandy curiously walked around the screen to see a tub full of hot water. There was a sponge, plenty of soap, and a couple of towels. She bit her lip in hesitation, and then the precious hot water won out. It would be a shame to waste it; and, she thought, maybe the warmth would ease the sting in her poor backside.
Mandy undressed, and eased herself into the tub. The water made her spanked bottom sting even more, but she decided she wanted to smell good.
Rafe returned to the kitchen a few minutes later, well pleased with his raid on Katie’s room. His little sister kept a variety of clothing here for her impromptu visits, and he knew she wouldn’t mind sharing. He’d found undergarments, a skirt and a shirtwaist he thought would fit Mandy.
“I’m going to drape some clothes over the screen, Mandy,’ he called out. “You just take your time. I’m going to fix us something to eat, and after that we’ll go over the papers and talk.” He certainly couldn’t let her stay here alone with him, guardian or not. Her reputation would be ruined. If it wasn’t already, he gloomily realized.
Mandy smelled the food, and was reminded that she’d had nothing to eat in three days. She’d made the deputies mad by knocking plates out of their hands, and they’d stopped trying to feed her. She got out of the tub, dried off, then looked at the clothing. She pulled on the lace-trimmed drawers first, thinking she’d never see a pair so beautiful. The camisole matched the drawers, and it felt so soft against her breasts. She’d seem them in the catalogue that Sonny brought her, but she’d never owned one. The shirtwaist was easy. She put it on and buttoned it, but she looked in disdain at the petticoat and skirt. She’d never worn a dress, and wasn’t sure if she wanted to now.
“Do the clothes fit, Mandy?” Rafe asked from the other side of the screen.
“I don’t wear skirts!” Mandy answered.
“You do now, Mandy,” he said firmly. “Hurry up and finish dressing. The food is ready.”
Mandy figured out the petticoat and skirt, and then placed the satin slippers on her feet. To her shock, they fit well. Rafe’s sister was practically the same size.
Self-consciously she walked around the screen. Her eyes sought Rafe’s, and she was relieved when he smiled.
“You look real nice, Mandy. Katie is small like you.” His ward was a beautiful young woman, and her hair was a vivid red, like his mother’s. She’d combed it out, and while still damp, it fell in curls down to her hips. “Have a seat,” he offered.
Mandy flopped on the chair in her usual manner, and immediately jumped to her feet in shocked surprise. “I don’t feel like sitting right now!” she said mournfully, looking at the steak and potatoes hungrily.
“Sitting after a spanking is part of the punishment. It’s to remind you of the spanking and what you did to earn it so you won’t earn another one anytime soon.” When she still stood there, glaring at him accusingly, Rafe said firmly, “Sit down, Mandy.”
“I can eat standing up.” She thrust her chin up and out while reaching for her plate, only to have Rafe catch her hand in his.
“You will sit down at the table to eat your meals, Mandy. That is a house rule.”
“Then I won’t eat!” she declared, turning her back to him and stomping from the kitchen.
Rafe shook his head in despair, willing his temper to calm down. He couldn’t spank her every five minutes. He quickly changed his mind when he saw her flying out the front door. He gave chase, and cursed himself for letting her get such a head start. All of a sudden, he saw her fall, and he rushed to make sure that she wasn’t hurt. “You little fool! What do you think you’re doing?” he scolded, kneeling beside her.
“I don’t want to be with you! I can take care of myself.” She slapped at his hands as he tried to help her up. “These slippers are silly!”
Rafe checked her ankles, and didn’t see any sign of injury. “Are you hurt anywhere?” he asked calmly.
“No, just my butt, and that’s your fault,” Mandy heatedly accused.
“It’s going to hurt even more.” Rafe picked her up, and flipped her over one knee. “I will not have you running away from me every five minutes, Mandy!” He spanked her hard over the skirts, and decided that she couldn’t feel a thing. He flipped up the garments until the only thing covering her was the lace-trimmed drawers. “Now we’ll see if I can make an impression this time,” he announced, spanking her rounded bottom again.
“Ow! Ouch! No!” Mandy squirmed and wiggled, but Rafe easily held her over his bent knee. “Stop it! Damn it to hell! I hate you, you son of a bitch!”
“I warned you about cussing!” Rafe spanked harder yet.
“I’m sorry!” she gasped. “It just hurts so much.” Mandy started bawling, and went limp over his knee.
Rafe gave her another dozen hard spanks, right where he figured they would have the most effect, and then stood her up, rising to his feet as he did so. She quickly pushed down her skirts, and her face was a flaming red. “Are you ready to go back to the house and eat your supper?”
“I won’t be bullied by you!” Mandy declared, reaching back to rub away the sting and glaring at him defiantly.