When undercover police officer Karen Patterson is taken in by the members of the Heartfield community, it’s the first step in what the local law enforcement hopes will be a successful investigation into the group they suspect of wrongdoing and abuse.
For Karen, having Heartfield leader Clay Sanders buy her act as a stranded motorist is the first step in what she hopes will be a career advancing assignment. She’s researched Heartfield thoroughly, and is more than eager to dig up whatever dirt she can find on a community that gives husbands the right to use corporal punishment on their wives. She’s also eager to rescue Ann Marie Fales, whose wealthy parents are convinced was brainwashed into joining the community. After all, what kind of community advocates wife-spanking? And what kind of woman would willingly live there?
As a newcomer, Karen plays along and agrees to submit to Clay’s authority for the duration of her stay. She’s sure the whole place will be busted up in short order, but when her cover is blown and her real agenda is revealed, Karen must not only face Heartfield’s old-fashioned disciplinary justice, but the conflicted feelings that arise when she realizes that the group’s lifestyle appeals to her in ways she never imagined.
Could all of what she was told by her employers – and by society – about Heartfield’s way of life be wrong? Can a take-charge woman find liberation through submission over the lap of a handsome commune leader? Can a man who built a community on the principles of male dominance handle a woman whose position of authority is at odds with her growing need to submit? And what will happen to Heartfield when the real agenda behind the investigation is revealed once and for all?
Fiona Wilde’s follow-up to “Old Fashioned Education” is the second book in the “Communities of Discipline” series, featuring communities where spanking and harsher forms of correction are a way of life.
Note to customers: “Heartfield Ranch” is a re-release of Vicki Blue’s “Heartfield Trilogy”. If you previously purchased this title you can log into your account & download the newest version at no additional cost.
She could feel her heart pounding against her chest, was aware of how shaky and uncertain her legs felt.
“I will be brave,” she’d told herself.
She always told herself that. But in the end, when she was standing before him, knowing exactly what was in store for her, she realized she was not brave. Not at all.
A tear slipped from her eye and rolled down a cheek tanned by long days working in the garden. It was her favorite place on the compound, the garden. That and the barn, where she helped tend to the poultry and livestock that supplied the residents’ eggs, meat and milk.
Farming was something she’d always wanted to do, and the pretty brunette had thrown herself into her duties with abandon, displaying a natural talent for getting both plants and animals to thrive. That earned her admiration, but also jealousy. The community was close-knit and orderly, but sometimes pettiness still reared its head, especially when a pretty new face came on the scene and caught the eye of the most handsome and eligible men. And when one of those men offered himself as her guardian ? a requirement in a society whose rules dictated that females have male oversight – the jealousy reached a fever pitch.
For months she had ignored the jibes as she concentrated on her work. But this afternoon it had been too much, and she had unleashed a venomous diatribe against her tormentor, Sarah, before coating her with the contents of a pail of fresh cow’s milk.
It had taken three men to separate the two after that, and now the young woman stood before her guardian-turned-husband, Jake, dreading what was to come.
He’d spanked her before for other things ? occasionally just to remind her that he could. She didn’t have a problem with the rules, or with the authority that permitted him to discipline her. Like other women who found their way here, she considered the setup a dream come true. The threat of discipline brought order; its implementation wiped slates clean and laid the path for atonement. It kept things running smoothly.
“She started it.” The woman sniffed, her voice quavering. She looked down at her hands, which were shaking slightly as they toyed with the strap of her apron.
?“I don’t doubt it. Sarah has a sharp tongue.”? Seated on a straight-back chair, Jake was rolling up his sleeves as he spoke. “But make no mistake, my dear. Adam is likely tanning her bare bottom as we speak. And given her continued defiance, she’s probably getting the switch.”
The woman shuddered at the thought. She’d not been switched. Not yet, and not that it made her feel any better. Jake’s hand was bad enough.
“Besides,” Jake continued. “It’s no matter to me who started it. The language you used is unladylike and prohibited, and the assault ?”
“It wasn’t an assault!” Her voice was high with fright. “I threw milk at her and she attacked me.”
“Throwing the milk was an assault.” He paused, putting his broad hands on his knees as he looked up at her. His forearms, bare now, were well-muscled and nearly as brown as his pants. “And it was wasteful.” He shifted till he was sitting straight up and held out his hand. “Come on. Let’s get this over with. Over my lap.”
She thought about running, but knew where that would lead. She’d tried that only once and had repaid with the reddest, sorest bottom she could remember. She thought about begging some more, but knew it was futile, and would show a lack of faith in her mate’s decision to do what needed to be done.
She’d already begun to sob ever so softly when he pulled her gently across his lap. When he raised her skirt, she put her fist in her mouth to try and keep from crying out. But when the first smack from his work-toughened hand impacted her soft, vulnerable bottom she could not stop herself.
From inside the cabin, the sound of steady smacking interspersed with her plaintive cries rang out. Walking past, a few residents looked up, but did not stop. Correction of women, they knew, was a necessary part of life. Here, where men loved the women enough to guide them, it was nothing out of the ordinary.
“Is this all the information you have?”
Karen Patterson looked across the table, knowing it was professionally risky to put the question to her superior officers in such an insolent tone, but she couldn’t help herself. The pride of snagging her first undercover assignment was quickly evaporating as she leafed through the thin folder of information on the group she was being sent to infiltrate.
“Oh believe me, Karen, no one is more frustrated than we are at the lack of information on these people, which is exactly why we need to send someone in there to find out what ? if any ? laws are being broken. All we have right now are some rumors.” Sergeant Jarvis sighed and leaned back in his chair, adjusting his soup-stained tie over his large belly.
“Right,” Karen answered, leafing again through the scant notes and photos. “Isolationists with possible right-wing, anti-government tendencies. Unconfirmed reports of the subjugation and possible abuse of women.? Apparently the men there rule, and women are subject to physical discipline. It’s rumored that corporal punishment of wives is commonplace. ”? She snorted in disgust. “Let’s hope that’s just an exaggerated rumor. It’s bad enough that right wing freaks still exist without women actually choosing to be with them. Who would want to live in a commune today, anyway? I thought the notion died out with tie dye and bell bottoms.”
“Not entirely.” Capt. Clemmons spoke up now from where he was leaning against the wall. Tall and thin, he was the Mutt to Sgt. Jarvis’ Jeff. “Oh, and for an FYI, they don’t call themselves communes anymore. I think today the term is ‘intentional community.’? As far as the ‘right wing freaks’ label goes, it’s not illegal to live an alternative lifestyle, not even one other people disagree with. People are free to be and believe what they want as long as they follow the laws. But if laws are being broken – if there are weapons violations or abuse, or if people are being held against their will, then that’s a different story.”
Karen looked down at one of the photos showing a barefoot, pregnant woman with baby fastened ? papoose-like ? on her back. She was picking peas while behind her a burly-looking man was chopping wood in the distance. Both looked perfectly happy in their gender roles. Karen rolled her eyes. With all the advances women had made, why anyone would choose to raise their children in such a stereotypical subculture? These women had obviously been brainwashed to choose a world that denied them jobs, independence and equality with men.
“So.” She shut the folder and looked up at her colleagues. “Just how do I get in?”
“It’s not impossible.” Capt. Clemmons pointed to a picture of a pretty brunette woman who looked to be in her late twenties. Karen recognized the picture as a copy of one she had in her packet. The woman’s name was Ann Marie Fales, and it was her politically well-heeled parents who had pressed for the current investigation of the intentional community known as Heartfield.
“As you know from the information we gave you, Miss Fales joined Heartfield last year, much to the frustration of her family. They’ve acknowledged that they knew she wasn’t happy with her job as a management consultant ? a job her daddy, Harlan Fales, admits he pressured her to take so she could eventually work with him in the family company. Ann Marie has been described as defiant and overly compliant by turns. Her mother said she hated school and dreamed of settling down on a farm somewhere and having a family, but her parents told her that was nonsense and urged her towards a career track. She was dutiful enough to graduate at the top of her class in college and enter Harlan & Associates like they wanted. But then, just after Christmas last year, she took off and left a note for her parents saying she’d lived for others long enough. The private investigator they hired tracked her to Heartfield. Attempts to reach her there were unsuccessful. The Fales think she’s been brainwashed.
“Based on??” Karen asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Based on the decision of a brilliant career woman to leave a one hundred thousand dollar a year job to dig in the dirt with a bunch of hippies.” Capt. Jarvis gave a derisive snort. “According to Melissa Fales, this ‘cult’ ? as she calls it ? took advantage of Ann Marie’s ‘submissive tendencies.’”
Karen looked back down at the photo of Ann Marie. She was pretty, with the sort of girl-next-door look that likely helped her blend right in to the people who inhabited Heartfield ? earthy, back-to-the-land types that lived off the grid and grew their own food. Her hair was straight and long. Karen remembered from reading the interview notes that Melissa Fales had complained that her daughter had refused her efforts to adopt a more modern style, just as she’d refused to drive a newer car or wear designer clothes. Ann Marie’s mother had used the refusal as an example of her daughter’s “apparent mental illness.”
“It was like she was determined to reject every benefit our lifestyle afforded,” Mrs. Fales had complained in the interview, and Karen wondered how much of that pressure to conform had contributed to her decision to make such a radical change. Still, it was no excuse to move to a community where women reportedly had no rights beyond what the men gave them, and it baffled Karen further why this young woman would exchange the authority of an overbearing mother for that of an overbearing man. Ann Marie could have changed jobs, moved or done anything else. But to settle into a 600-acre compound where she’d be treated like a second-class citizen based on her gender? That seemed like cutting off her nose to spite her face.
She shut the folder and looked at the two men. “So how do I get in?”
Capt. Jarvis sat up and leaned forward. “Well, as Ann Marie Fales demonstrates, it’s possible to just go up and knock on the door and be accepted. But I suspect there had been some communication between her and some of the members beforehand that precipitated her joining. Heartfielders keep to themselves for the most part, but they do have some contact with the larger community, even if they are mostly self-sufficient. They still come into town to go to the doctor when they need to, frequent the feed and hardware stores, etc. And they’re apparently more than willing to help when the community needs it; they’ve been compared to the Mennonites, although no one’s been able to pin down their religious beliefs. They’ve helped out people who needed food, temporarily taken in stranded travelers, etc.? I’m thinking that’s the best method to get you in the door. Pretty, vulnerable woman breaking down near the compound, out of money, no place to stay. You get the idea.”
Karen nodded knowingly. “Sounds like a plan,” she said.
Capt. Jarvis began to arrange things on his desk, a move Karen had come to recognize as a sign of nervousness. There was something he wanted to say; she could tell. She could also tell he wasn’t really sure how to say it.
“The Fales would like to talk to you before you leave,” he said. “They’re pretty insistent we get Ann Marie out of there.”
Karen struggled to hide her irritation. The average person did not have the political clout to sic the Landover police force on a community. And even though she disagreed with the ultra-traditional lifestyle of Heartfield ? at least what she knew of it ? it irked her to know the investigation was likely born of a vendetta the Fales had launched due to their anger over a grown child’s decision.
But Karen didn’t want to rock the boat. This assignment was good for her career in more ways than one. Not only could it lead to a promotion at work, but Karen also hoped the experience of uncovering the unconventional lifestyles of the Heartfield residents would help her achieve another dream ? to eventually write a book about the investigation. Cults and secret societies made for good reading, especially when the investigation revealed bizarre practices and subjugation of other people. Going undercover in one would give her the kind of first-hand perspective that bestsellers were built on.
“Of course,” she lied. “I’d be happy to talk to them.”