Publisher’s Note: “Simon Finds Trouble: Rannygazoo Book 2” is a re-release of “Simon Says.” All Blushing Books customers who purchased Simon Says will find this new version available in their online libraries.
Ruth doesn’t want to marry Simon, nor does she want to move to Sunny Side, his family farm, but as it is her only way to escape embarrassment, she has to go along. Still, she doesn’t intend to make it easy for anyone concerned, including Simon’s family, his hired hands, and their wives.
The peaceful countryside will never be the same after Ruth moves in and wreaks her havoc, but Simon is even more determined to change Ruth’s ways and capture her heart. He has six months to make this fake marriage into a real one, but that will depend on Ruth.
This story is a sequel to the antic-ridden, wonderful Trouble Comes to Texas!
?There it is,? Simon declared as they came around a bend in the road dusty North Texas road. From her vantage point on the high wagon seat, Ruth could see a sturdy farmhouse surrounded by a picket fence. The area around it had been cleared, but there were still some small scrubby trees scattered around. From that distance she could see no more details, but it looked much more basic than the luxurious home she had just reluctantly left.
?No wonder you wanted to leave,? she complained. ?That hovel looks barely habitable. I can?t see how you could tell my father that you would see to it that I was comfortable and well-cared for. This is nothing like his Sage Bluff.?
?It may not be Sage Bluff, but it?s got more going for it than Sage Bluff will ever have, because it?s a real home where a real family lives and loves each other. I?m guessing you won?t understand what I?m saying yet, but you will,? Simon promised.
?I understand that I have no intention of living here,? Ruth insisted. ?It?s horrible! I?m glad I didn?t bring my Magnifique here. It?s not worthy of her.?
?You didn?t bring your Magnifique here because your father didn?t allow you to. I?ll bring her down here if ever I think you can be trusted with her. She?d make an excellent dam for my breeding program,? he mused.
Ruth laughed derisively. ?Never! That fine mare is for my use alone. She can just stay at Sage Bluff.?
?She?s your horse. I guess that?s your choice,? Simon said with a sad shake of his head.
?Just look at this place! And you say your sisters and mother live here? I need a home of my own! I couldn?t stand living there for one day.?
?Your father intends you to stand it.?
?He had no idea what he was getting me into when he let you marry me and carry me off here. When he finds out, he?ll bring me right back home. He would never allow me to set foot in that pig sty.?
The closer they came, the more Simon was able to see the details that had been neglected since his last visit. He didn?t exactly agree with Ruth, but he could see her point. He planned out a few comments he intended to make to the hired hand before he left again. Sunny Side was not showing her best to her newest resident. Still, he figured it was time to let Miss Ruth know how things were going to be from now on, so he gave her a hard look and then began. ?You might want to re-think that attitude, little lady,? Simon advised her. ?You see, there are some ground rules on Sunny Side farm.?
?Is that what you call this place? Sunny Side?? Ruth scoffed. ?This place hardly looks big enough to have a name.?
Simon went on as if he hadn?t heard her, but his remarks made it clear that he had. ?One of the major ground rules goes like this. It says that if you complain, you pay the price. And I think you remember what that means.? He gave her a significant look.
She blushed and squirmed in her seat. She remembered with painful clarity the way he had showed her his opinion on how a woman should pay the price for a misdeed. It involved a hairbrush and a hand that felt like a paddle on soft, never-before-spanked flesh meeting said flesh several times with incredible vigor. She had gotten her first ever spanking from this man two nights ago, and what burned her up even more was that her usually indulgent father had allowed it, even encouraged it.
Simon went on as if he were giving her a tour of her new life. ?Each sentence I call a complaint will earn you five swats.?
She looked at him in shock. ?If you think I am going to tolerate any more spankings from you, you are sadly mistaken. I?m already more than sore enough.?
?Oh you?ll tolerate them, all right, and if you know what?s good for you, you?ll learn how to avoid them. That?s simple enough, behave yourself. If you don?t, I?ll know what to do about it. And you?ll take what I?ll do about it. Didn?t you learn anything last night??
His mention of that humiliating experience brought the blush to her cheek again. She had never been so embarrassed or angry in all her born days, but the details, which she so longed to forget, were etched into her memory…
Yesterday morning had started off badly enough. Ruth was sore from the spanking she had received from him the night before, and tired from her ordeal of the previous day. All her plans had come to naught, the man she wanted to humiliate and get revenge on remained untouched, while she was caught and exposed to the whole town for the liar she was. That was the only reason she had agreed to this ridiculous bargain.
She had allowed herself to be married to this barbarian, Simon, because he promised not to expose any more secrets about her. To escape the embarrassment of staying in Sweet Gum, she had agreed to six months as Mrs. Simon Huff. What she hadn?t bargained on was that her doting father would really allow this man to take her away with him.
Allow was hardly the word she would have used.
Her father begged him to take her away and straighten her out, as if she were a prisoner sent off to pay her debt to society.
The evening had come only too early for Ruth?s liking, and Simon had pulled up to the hotel just at sunset. Emboldened by his polite kindness to her, Ruth had plotted to end the farce there and then, conveniently forgetting that she had promised not to run from him. She had jumped out of the wagon and run into the hotel.
Simon followed her with a resigned look on his face.
?Please, help me,? she had begged, affecting her most pitiful voice. She held her hands up in supplication to the shocked, middle-aged desk clerk who had appeared at the ringing of the bell over the door.
That same bell had clanged even more loudly as Simon had followed one moment later, marriage certificate in hand. All Ruth?s pleading had done was to annoy, and then amuse, both the men.
Her cry of, ?Call the sheriff!? had brought scoffing denials.
Her shrills of, ?This man is kidnapping me!? had started the chuckles rolling.
?You can?t just ignore me like this!? had begun the knee-slapping and eye-watering mirth.
?No, I don?t know any way to ignore any women as loud as you,? the clerk had agreed between gasps of laughter, ?but I hope your husband does know a way of quieting you down. There are fella?s trying to sleep upstairs.?
?Come on,? Simon had said, dragging her up the stairs by the elbow. ?Which room should I put her in?? he had called back over his shoulder.
?Number fifteen at the end of the hall. That?s the room farthest away from the other guests,? the clerk had answered through the handkerchief he had used to wipe his streaming eyes.
Ruth?s eyes had been streaming too as she realized that these men were completely ignoring her commands.
Simon had pushed her into room fifteen and shut the door after her. ?I?ll give you this room to yourself, Ruth. I won?t claim my rights as a husband until you?re ready. Get some rest now. I?ll bring your supper when you quit caterwauling.?
After several minutes more of fruitless temper tantrum, in which an innocent and rather decorative ceramic pitcher had valiantly sacrificed itself on the altar of her selfishness, Ruth had gotten quiet and heard Simon and the clerk discussing things out in the hall.
?She?ll be fine locked in here until you get back from having a decent dinner. Do her good to let her stew a while and have to eat in the room all by herself when you get back.?
?I guess you?re right. Thanks for bringing up the key,? Simon had said. ?I?ll leave it in the door in case of emergency.? Then she had heard him address her through the closed door. ?Ruth, I?ll be back after a while with your supper. You?ll get it when you clean up whatever mess you?ve made in there and not a minute before.?
?I?ll get it when I get to the next hotel,? Ruth had muttered to herself after she had heard his steps retreat around the bend in the hallway.
She then took a pillowcase off the pillow and pushed it under the door so that it would catch the key while she worked out of the lock using a hairpin, as she had done many times at home. Stepping quietly, she had slipped through the back door and down the outside steps to the back alley behind the hotel.
At that point in the memory, Ruth stomped her foot, making Simon wonder exactly what her problem was. Explanations would have to wait until after the general hubbub of greeting was completed.
As they drew closer to the house, Ruth watched while one of the figures on the porch rose and threw her hands up in the air. It ran off the porch and as the details became clearer, Ruth could see that it was a woman, round and cheerful-looking in her blue checked dress and once-white apron. Ruth could tell at a glance that this woman would not be any threat to her, so she decided to try to make her an ally in her fight for freedom. With that thought in mind, she gave her a winsome smile.
?Simon! Simon! How good to have you home? Why didn?t you send us a wire and tell us you were coming?? she squealed in delight.
Simon got heavily down off the wagon and allowed the woman?s warm embrace with a tolerant look. ?You know how the telegram delivery is out here, Maisy,? he explained. ?I?d have gotten here about a half hour after it did, if that long. Heck, I might have beaten Joe out here.?
Maisy blushed and tittered as she walked beside the wagon while Simon continued up the drive. When they were near enough to be heard, Maisy couldn?t help exclaiming, ?Look who it is, Fern, dear! It?s Simon! And he?s brought home a lady friend. Oh, what a time for Mama to be away. She?ll be so sorry to have missed you!?
Fern didn?t stand to greet them, but Ruth thought she detected pleasure in the austere gaze she directed at them.
?How long you staying this time, Simon?? Fern asked plainly. ?I?ll need to pick more beans and tomatoes for dinner, I know, but what about supper??
?Well, of course, he?s staying to supper, Sister,? Maisy scolded with a giggle. ?He wouldn?t come all this way just to stay for dinner. Who would drive?? she paused in confusion. ?How many hours did you drive, Simon??
Simon couldn?t help but laugh. ?We drove over a day, coming from Sweet Gum. I?ll be staying a few days. My wife here will be staying as long as it takes.?
Fern looked at him sharply but said nothing. It was Maisy who gave the reaction Ruth had anticipated. ?Wife? Why, Simon! How wonderful! You got married??
?That?s generally what folks mean when they call somebody their wife,? Fern put in sourly. A long look passed between Fern and Simon. ?How long have we got??
Ruth could tell they were not talking about dinner, or her, or even the visit. Something hidden and serious was being brought out in the open between the two of them while hidden from her and Maisy.
?As long as you want,? Simon said. ?Plans have changed, Fern. We?ll talk about it after dinner. I?m hungry as a bobcat and twice as mean.? He didn?t quite smile, but the look he gave his sister was warm somehow, and had an obviously calming effect on the woman who had looked strangely vulnerable in those first moments.
?Let?s get busy then, Maisy. Dinner won?t put itself on the table,? Fern said.
?Of course, it won?t, Sister,? Maisy agreed. ?Let?s do get out the china and eat in the dining room. This is a special occasion. Mama will be so thrilled. We?ll have to have a big party when she gets back.?
?Where is she anyway?? Simon asked. ?I didn?t know she was gone.?
Maisy tried to answer. ?Oh, you know Mama. She?s always off helping someone somewhere. Isn?t she at Aunt Sue?s this week??
?No, that was last week,? Fern corrected. ?She?s in Polooka, helping with those new babies. And Simon, how in this world would you know where Mama is when you don?t write or telegraph to let us know where to send you mail??
?It hasn?t been that long since I wrote,? Simon countered, with a wry grin. ?Has it??
Fern had to laugh and cuff him on the shoulder. ?No, not too long, only eight months!?
?Okay, you?re right, I?m sorry. I got busy there, and?? he didn?t finish the thought.
?And never mind, Brother, dear,? Maisy assured him. ?Sister, let?s get that dinner started. I?m getting hungry myself.? The sisters? conversation trailed off into the inner welcoming shade of the kitchen porch but Simon?s voice called them back.
?Ruth here will be helping you, Fern. Give her something to do,? Simon requested.
Ruth looked shocked and resentful. ?I just got here. I haven?t even freshened up. My word, I haven?t even gotten out of the wagon yet and already you?re putting me to work??
?I?m sure you?ll want to make them one of your famous pies,? Simon suggested, straight-faced.
Ruth stared daggers at him as he climbed down from the wagon then went to give her a steadying hand. He knew very well that she couldn?t make a pie if her life depended on it. Maisy was mumbling something about Ruth resting on the porch until she could get her room ready, but Fern rolled right over her.
?You will open the damper under the stew so it will finish cooking faster, Maisy,? Fern declared. ?We can fix the rooms up later. Right now, Ruth will make a pie, as her husband says.? Fern held the screen door open for Ruth who stood mutinously still at the wagon.
?I?ll send her in after a minute,? Simon told Fern, so the two sisters went into the house. Ruth could hear Maisy fussing about Simon being mean to his new bride and wished that Maisy wouldn?t retreat so readily.
Then she saw the look on Simon?s face and the way his hands were tugging at his belt buckle. ?I?ll just go with Maisy into the house.? Ruth tried to scuttle past him, but he caught her before she reached the steps. ?Maisy, help!? she shouted. ?He?s going to beat me!?
She was disappointed but oddly not shocked to hear Fern?s loud braying laugh. Then she heard Maisy?s squeaky voice begin to sing and she knew she was being purposefully ignored.
Apparently, Simon ruled this roost whenever he returned and it would take her some time to train his sisters to do her bidding. A bit of indignity suffered now might make her eventual victory all the sweeter, she tried to convince herself as she pulled at Simon?s grip on her arm.
?Remember I mentioned some ground-rules just a minute ago?? Simon began. ?Well, here?s another one. If you disobey what I say, you?ll pay the price. It will cost you five with the belt. Five every time. Got it??
Ruth gave him a look that she thoroughly disdained his rules and his prices, but she failed to respond, so Simon continued. ?And here?s another ground-rule I?ll bet you didn?t know. Any time I ask you a direct question, I expect an answer. It?s like disobeying me if you don?t give me that answer, so it will also cost five with the belt. That?s ten with the belt as it is, so let?s get on with it.?
?Oh, you can?t! I won?t tolerate??
?You haven?t got any choice.?
?But the hired hands,? she protested. ?They?ll see!?
?You should have thought of that before you disobeyed me!? His belt was doubled in his hand, the heavy buckle nestled securely in his palm. He put his foot up on the low porch step and bent her over despite her struggles. Using the hand with the belt so that the belt flapped and got tangled in her skirts made raising those skirts difficult, but he managed. Holding down a squirming, screaming woman inhibited his swing, but again, he got the job done. Ten stripes with the belt were delivered to the accompaniment of Ruth?s screeches, Fern?s pot clattering, and Maisy?s rendition of ?America the Beautiful.?
Ruth could not believe he was exposing her bare bottom for anyone to see, but she also knew that it had to stop and the only way to make it stop was for her to pretend to give in, which she did. She hung limp over his leg in a most uncomfortable and undignified position once the last stripe was laid, hoping he would cover her up.
?All right, get on with you now,? he declared as he pushed her off his leg with just enough gentleness to keep her on her feet. She was stunned at his cold handling of her but saw no choice but to obey for the moment.
?Where am I to go?? she demanded.
?It?s called a kitchen. You find it by following that gosh-awful racket, and hurry it up, okay? They won?t stop that noise until they know there?s nothing going on out here for them to cover up. I?ve got to unhitch the team and put the wagon away.? Here, he gave her a satisfied grin. ?There?s no hired hand here today to take care of it for me.?
?What?? Ruth shrieked. ?You tricked me. You lied to me.?
?Shoe?s on the other foot now, isn?t it? And it isn?t such a great fit, I take it? Guess you see how other folks feel when you manipulated them. But actually, I didn?t lie to you. When you said anyone could come by and see, I didn?t agree with you or say that there was someone who might come by. I only told you that you should have thought of that before, which is true enough.? He couldn?t help chuckling at her anger.
She seethed all the way up the porch steps and through the porch, but she soon realized why he had not bothered to show her the way. The kitchen was right there. The two sisters, who ceased their noise as soon as the door opened, were just moving about in the far corners, which were rather far indeed. This was a country kitchen, large, airy and obviously the center of their lives.
Fern seemed to be in charge. ?You?ll find everything you need to make a pie in this cupboard here,? she explained, gesturing to a large area near the stove.
?Oh, that was just Simon?s little joke. I can?t really make a pie,? Ruth laughed. ?I?ll just sit here and drink tea. You do have tea, don?t you??
?Tea drinking happens after dinner?s eaten,? Fern replied. With a look, she stopped her sister Maisy from reaching for the tin of tea on a shelf.
?I suppose you?re right,? Maisy sighed. Turning to Ruth she added, ?It?s a bit like that child?s game around here. You know the one. Simon Says? Well, that?s about the size of it. What Simon says is what we do. He says for you to make a pie. If you don?t know how, it?s best you learn quickly,? she blushed and looked down, but Ruth could tell she was trying to be polite and not mention Simon?s treatment of her.
?You mean to say that you two are not going to help me escape his brutality? Are you his victims as well?? Ruth asked with half a sneer and half a moan.
?He doesn?t spank us, if that?s what you mean. I?m twenty-four and Maisy is twenty-eight. That?s a bit old for a lad of thirty to be spanking, don?t you think? But he is the man of the house and according to our father?s will, owner of this home and the farm. He supports us out of the goodness of his heart. A fine recompense it would be from us if we didn?t honor his wishes,? Fern?s answer gave Ruth ideas.
?So you obey him in order to keep a roof over your heads? You poor dears! I can help you! My father is very wealthy and as his heiress, I can secure as much money as I need as long as I can get to a bank. If you will just help me, we can come to some arrangement.?
Maisy tried to laugh it off and twittered over her sister?s insulted retort. ?No, no, now let?s have no more of this foolish talk. We?ll start with an apple pie as it?s the easiest, and one of Simon?s favorites. The oil crust is easier to handle and more forgiving for a beginner, so what you?ll need is a cup of flour, here in this bowl right here.?