Saturday, June 28, 2014


He pressed up against the railing and patted the animal’s forehead down to just about his snout. He was expecting her to do likewise, to show affection for the horse rather than fear. Melanie mustered enough courage to pat his neck but withdrew her hand when he snorted.

He was recently broken. And Reeve had believed her when she’d said she knew what she was doing on the back of a horse.

He’s going to throw me. He’s going to injure me and I’ll die or be bedridden for the rest of my life.
Crazy talk. Or maybe not. How did she wriggle herself out of that mess?

“Would you like to saddle him yourself?” he asked.

Melanie forced a laugh.

“Well, I expect there’ll be time for that. I’ll do it for you—”

“Reeve, wait!

Her heart beat madly. He was going to be angry. Could she blame him? She’d lied to him.

Stopping, he turned. “You don’t like him.”

He looked so disappointed. “No, no, Reeve, I do—”

“I’ve got lots of other horses. I just thought you’d love this one.”

“Oh, Reeve, he’s beautiful. And I do appreciate you being so sweet and giving him to me. But I don’t…I don’t ride as well I told you I did.”

Back on the train. He was going to lose his temper. Then he would send her back to Maryland.

His eyes narrowed at her and he drew closer.

“How often do you ride?” he drawled.

“I’m sure nowhere near as you have.”

“And nowhere near as much as you told me you did.” He regarded her sternly but not with anger. “Not riding at all is not an option. You, Miss, are going to learn.”

Was that it? Was she getting off that easily?

Not easily at all, she realized. He was ordering her to learn, telling her she had to get over her fear and master riding and handling a horse to some extent. Better, certainly, than she was capable of now.

“Yes. You have my word that I’ll learn.”

“‘Your word.’ Hmmmph.” So he was angry. His hands fastened to his waist and he sighed impatiently. “Why did you say you rode before you could walk? Which I know isn’t true, but you exaggerated your skills.”

“Because I wanted to be your bride. I thought you wouldn’t want to marry me if you knew I—I’m a little scared of horses. And I usually walk or ride a wagon.” Seeing the fire in his eyes, she added, “But I can learn. And I will learn.”

“Oh, you will.” Giving a hard shake of his head, he asked, “What else did you lie about?”

She straightened up, afraid he could see right through her. “Nothing. That’s the only thing I lied about.”

“I was truthful with you. I told you this isn’t that easy life you led back in the city, Melanie.”

“And I just wanted to impress you—”

“How impressive would it have been if I’d let you on this horse and he hurt you badly enough? Or killed you? I’d have to live with that. And I do believe we talked about this. About lying.”

Her eyes grew larger. “You’re not going to spank me. That’s not a big lie. I just wanted to impress you. So you wouldn’t think I couldn’t—”

“I don’t want to hear your excuses, Melanie. And I don’t want any more lies. And, yes, I am going to spank you. You get your pretty little behind in that house and wait for me in the parlor.”

Her first instinct was to plead with him. To promise she wouldn’t ever do it again.

But there were other lies. Bigger than that one.

Nevertheless, she tilted her chin up in defiance. Without another word, she walked back into the house.

What an unreasonable, stubborn man! Melanie knew that hardheaded nature probably had been necessary when driving cattle across the states to reach Montana, where Reeve finally decided to settle.

It sounded as if that same rugged determination had gotten him through hard times as a child after his parents had died. Over dinner, he’d informed her he’d been born in New York. At the age of nine he was plucked off the streets, where he’d been living after his father had walked out and his mother had died. He was put on a train with other orphans, then taken to Texas. That was where a farmer and his family had adopted him.
That was all well and good. She did respect him for having not only survived that hard life, but also having the drive and determination to make his own fortune raising cattle.

But did Reeve really have to be so hard on her? They were to be married in two days. He didn’t listen and he surely didn’t compromise on anything, from what she could see.

“So did you like the horse, ma’am?” Arnie asked when he passed by the parlor. “He’s hearty, ain’t he?”

“Don’t ask.” The admonition, made in a flat tone, had come from Reeve, who had stepped into the house at that moment. “Arnie, you and Eli go outside for now. Miss Melanie and I have something that needs discussing.”

Pursing her lips, she turned and folded her arms across her chest. Something that needed discussing? Ha! With him doing all the talking, I’m sure.

“You’re sulking again,” he told her.

“I am not sulking,” she protested. “I have never been spanked before. And I sure didn’t expect a spanking right before our wedding.”
“And I wasn’t expecting to have to spank my bride before our wedding, either. And you keep making up stories instead of being honest with me, I expect you’ll be spending a lot of time over my knee.”

Emphasis on a lot. Maybe the episode would prove more embarrassing than painful.

Then she saw the large wooden brush in his hand. The kind with a long handle and a wide, hard brush.

He was using that thing to spank her behind? Instinctively, she shot a look at the door and wondered if she could save her bottom by making a run for it.

Why bother? When that cowboy could probably walk a lot faster than she could run.

“I’ll have you know,” she huffed as he sat himself down on a chair and pulled her across his lap. “I’m too old for this—this spanking business!”

“Are you, now?” That jovial lilt in his voice only infuriated her more. “Come to think of it, how old are you? Did you lie about that, too?”

Did he know? How could he tell? He laid the brush casually across her rump, making her blush.

“Melanie, I asked you a question.”

She gritted her teeth and stared at the floor. “I’m twenty-six.”

“You’re—Melanie, you said you were twenty-three!”

Yes, I did. I lied. And I’m not a lady, either. I could have been—I was supposed to be. Instead I was living as a prostitute back in Maryland. But you wouldn’t understand that.

“Reeve Larson, I am not the first woman to lie about her age!” she blurted.

She heard him heave a long-suffering sigh. Melanie hastily offered an explanation. “I didn’t think you’d want an old maid of twenty-six. Twenty-three didn’t sound so bad.”

“What I want is an honest woman. And you’ll be glad to know you’re not old at all. Not too old that you can’t get a good tanning.”

He wasn’t happy with her. So much for that kiss they’d shared, for their happy dinner and how thrilled he’d been to give her that horse. Suddenly, Melanie felt him toss her shirts up over her waist, forcing a squeal from her.

“Don’t you dare pull down my underthings!” She hissed.

“Don’t worry, darlin’. There's just too much dress here. I want to make sure you feel this spanking, but I won’t bare your bottom until we’re legally wed.”

“Well, that’s a relief!”

“A word of advice: It’s never a good idea to sass a man while he’s getting ready to blister your bottom.”

(Want a little more? There's another excerpt over on Goodreads !)

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