The Demure Bride(8)

By: Joannie Kay


Rob decided he would forego shaving and give the mark on his cheek a chance to heal a bit before he scraped over it with a razor. He went downstairs and shook his head once again as realized he was going to have to hire someone to clean house for him. The parlor needed dusting yet again and he did not have time to spare for the task. He joined the men for breakfast and then assigned chores for the day. Running a ranch was never ending work. He was saddling up and preparing to ride out to make sure the work was all getting done properly when he heard a buggy approaching. He turned to see who was approaching and suddenly wished he had taken the time to run a dust rag over the parlor. His visitors were his neighbors, Matt Chambers and his feisty daughter. He walked over to greet them with a smile.

"Good morning, Matt. Miss Chambers," Robert greeted them.

"G'mornin', Matt. Mandy has something to say to you," he said, but his dark eyes were on his daughter.

Amanda wanted to throw a fit, but her Papa was not in a reasonable mood this morning and it was best to get the apology over with so they could return home.

"Would you like to come inside?" Robert offered politely, trying not to wince as he thought of his dusty parlor.

"No thanks, Rob. I know you've got work to do, and so do I. Mandy...?" His meaning was clear.

Amanda felt Robert Thorne's dark eyes on her and she wanted to grab the buggy whip and... "Papa insists I apologize... So, I apologize for striking you yesterday."

Robert couldn't help snickering. "That is a most gracious apology, Miss Chambers."

"Gracious?" Matt exclaimed in disgust. "Girl, I am disappointed in you!" His face was red and Robert didn't know if it was from anger or embarrassment, or perhaps both.

Amanda refused to say another word, although she did feel a bit guilty when she saw the mark she'd left on Robert Thorne's left cheek. It had to hurt... every bit as much as the ones he left on her tender bottom! The drive here had been exceedingly painful and her Papa refused to allow her the small consideration of a pillow to sit upon.

"Amanda, if you can't do any better than that, then it's sure and certain I didn't do a good enough job tanning you myself!"

"Papa!" she whispered in a strangled voice as her face flooded with color.

"I sympathize with how Miss Chambers feels, Matt, and I assure you I understand her position. She is not the least bit remorseful for her actions, and since I am not the least bit remorseful for mine, we are at what you westerners refer to as a 'stand off'. I fear that neither of us has made a good first impression upon the other, but given time I hope to remedy that."

"We can start that by invitin' you to supper tonight, Rob. Amanda can and will cook us a nice meal. Will you come?"

"Of course; I would be delighted." If looks could kill, the lovely redhead's green eyes would have sliced both him and her father to ribbons. "May I trust you will not poison our food, Miss Chambers?" he couldn't resist teasing her.

"Oh, I am sure I can come up with something more clever than poisoned food, Mr. Thorne!" Amanda retorted.

"I shall look forward to dining with you tonight then." He grinned at her, and then bid them a good day as Matt turned the buggy and headed home at a brisk pace. Robert saw Amanda wince in pain and suddenly realized she was truly in pain. He felt little sympathy for her. If ever a young lady needed taming, it was Miss Amanda Chambers! He looked after them for a while and then headed out to check on his men.



* * *



"That was not an apology, girl."

"Because I am not really sorry, Papa! You saw the mark on his cheek! I have at least twenty of them on my bottom, especially where I sit! My clothing was wet, and it made the blows extremely painful. I am not an animal to be used so!" She was still insulted by the fact that Robert Thorne used the small riding whip on her backside.

"You shouldn't have hit the man, Mandy. He didn't deserve it."

"I struck him twice; he shouldn't have done what he did, either!" She refused to back down. "Seriously, Papa, I was already smarting from the fall. I told him not to touch me, but he put his hands all over me; what was I to do?"

"He wasn't tryin' to take advantage of you, Mandy. He was checkin' to see if you broke any bones. It's what I would have done," Matt insisted, defending Rob. "Your Mama put all that nonsense in your head, girl, and it's just plain silly. You don't hit a man when his intentions are good ones."

For the first time Amanda found herself wondering if her father was right. She looked at him, confusion in her eyes. "In Boston a gentleman wouldn't dream of doing something so improper. He would have asked if assistance was needed, and then gone for help."

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