Annie’s sweet on her neighbor, Matthew Caine, but the stern rancher treats her like a bratty child instead of a woman. Each encounter always ends with a trip over his knee.
Matthew’s fed up with Annie’s childish behavior. Her latest prank ruined a brand new pair of boots! While he sets her britches on fire, he refers to her as a nuisance and warns her to leave him alone. For once in her life, Annie obeys.
“Bratty” Annie has grown into a beautiful woman and Matthew realizes that he’s fallen in love with her, but she’s unsure of his feelings. When he learns about her stepmother’s evil plan to marry her off to a man Annie despises in order to settle a debt, he steps in and takes her to wife. Annie’s happy to be married to the man of her dreams and learns that no matter what her age, her disobedience and sass will be dealt with an old-fashioned spanking.
Part of the new “Sons of Johnny Hastings” series. If you enjoyed this selection, please consider checking out the other books in the series (all listed below). Each book is a stand alone story that can be read with or without the other titles (& in any order). All books are also available together in a “box set” for a lower overall price.
Mason County, Texas, 1870
"Cut the act, little girl, those fake tears don’t fool me. When I get my hands on you, you won’t be sitting for a month of Sundays."
A surge of panic made her heart pound in her chest, but Annie Dobbs stood her ground and turned up her nose at the angry man limping toward her wearing one boot while holding the other at arm’s length. She could say she didn’t know what he was talking about, but that would be a lie. Her latest act of mischief had been a doozy and she deserved whatever punishment Matt decided to dish out. But, if she admitted her mistake, he’d no doubt spend the next fifty years rubbing it in her face, if he didn’t kill her first. "For heaven’s sake, I said I was sorry, what more do you want?"
"The skin off your hide would be a damn good place to start," he snapped, "besides, you’re only sorry ’cause you got caught." His blue eyes narrowed into slits. "And don’t go telling me this latest prank wasn’t your idea. I know you better than anyone else, bratty Annie, and this one had your name written all over it."
There he went again, calling her that childish name and sending her temper to a boil. "You have no sense of humor, you know that, Matthew Caine?" Now why’d she have to go and say that? If someone would’ve dumped horse dung in her boots she wouldn’t have thought it hilarious either. It also came as no surprise that he hadn’t fallen for the crocodile tears, but it was against her stubborn nature not to give it a shot.
Annie tossed a quick glance over her shoulder and suppressed a shudder. She could dash across the wide stream just a few feet away. Her two boots to his one would be to her advantage, but the current appeared to be too swift and unpredictable today to take the chance. Drat!
"No sense of humor?" Matt’s loud bark drew her attention back to the matter at hand. The twitch below his left eye, the one he got when he was at the end of his rope, sealed her fate. She was in for it now. "Sticking my foot in a boot filled with horse shit isn’t my idea of a good laugh." He shook the offending boot under her nose before flinging it to the ground. "Cripes, I stink so bad I can’t stand myself." His hands went to his belt buckle and her eyes widened in shock. Would he really take his belt to her? If he did, it’d be a first. Jeepers, the man had changed her diapers and watched over her like a sister. The Caines and the Dobbs had been neighbors forever.
"Now, lookee here, I spanked your butt plenty before, but this time I’m going to blister it good." He dropped his hands to his sides and Annie expelled a breath. Phew, that was close.
Despite the ominous threat to her backside, the corners of her mouth lifted into a smirk. He did stink and it grew worse as he drew closer. She opened her mouth only to shut it again. What could she say? She enjoyed being the center of his attention even though her bottom suffered for it. Maybe it would’ve been better if she hadn’t accepted Rose Caines’ invitation to lunch, but the woman was the closest thing to a mother figure she had, ever since her own mother had passed away when she was only five years old. Regardless, she had gone to lunch and when the chance had presented itself, she filled Matt’s one boot with horse dung.
It couldn’t have been more than an hour or so ago that she was helping Matt’s Aunt Rose clear the table while he and his pa, Jeb, scarfed down a piece of apple pie. Both men then left the kitchen and went out on the porch to retrieve their boots. Matt never entered the house with his dirty boots on. Neither did Jeb. Rose was formidable with a broom when it came to a clean house.
Instead of paying attention to that little voice inside her head telling her she’d better take a hike, Annie had excused herself and followed them. She kept one hand over her mouth to quell the spurts of giggles threatening to give her away and hid inside the doorway, waiting anxiously for Matt’s bellow. She hadn’t been disappointed.
Matt’s roar practically shook the house. With a yelp, Annie had taken off through the kitchen and out the back door only to skid to a halt when Matt stood there waiting for her. In a last futile effort to save herself, she bolted over the low banister and hightailed it down to the creek behind the house and now she was trapped. There was no other choice but to face her comeuppance.
Annie raised her chin a notch. At fifteen, she was way past the age to be treated like a child. "I’m too old for a spanking," she declared with much more bravado than she felt.
Matt threw back his head and laughed. "Not in my book, you ain’t. I doubt you’ll ever outgrow a spanking, Annie. The poor bloke who takes you to wife will no doubt wear out his hand on your backside." He bent down to her level and sneered. "Believe me when I say I don’t envy the man, but for now your Pa is responsible for your behavior and I must say he’s doing a piss poor job. He may put up with your shenanigans, but I won’t and don’t intend to."
Annie bristled with renewed anger. Her Pa had never laid a hand on her the way Matt was prone to do on occasion, and unfortunately he considered this latest prank as one of those occasions. "Only my Pa has the right to discipline me, not you," she snapped hotly, jumping back when Matt lunged toward her. She turned to make a run for it, but he tackled her to the ground. Momentarily winded, she lay there with a face full of grass.
"Are you okay, brat?"
She angled her head and poked out her tongue. "Go to hell."
"Yep, you’re back to your old sassy self. Let’s go." He yanked her up by the collar of her shirt and marched her unceremoniously over to a fallen log. The next thing she knew she was face down over his knees and kissing the ground once again.
"Ouch! Dammit, Matt," she hollered.
"Mind that mouth or by damn, I’ll shove a piece of soap in it." Whack, whack. "After all the childish stunts you’ve pulled on me over the years, this one was the last straw. You ruined a nice pair of boots, little girl. Your Pa should’ve paddled you the very first time you stepped out of line." Whack. Whack. "I ought to yank these blasted boy britches down to your ankles and bare your bottom, but the material is so worn I think you’ll be feeling the sting of this spanking soon enough." Whack. "As a matter of fact, I guaran-dam-tee it."
Annie kicked and shrieked, but to no avail. Matt continued to scold her while his hand landed in firm precision again and again on her vulnerable backside. She was certain her bottom would burst into flames any minute. "It’s high time you started acting like a lady and not some dirty faced brat."
"I’m not a brat," she cried between smacks, then sank her teeth into his denim-clad leg for good measure.
"Eeyow, you hoyden! The more you fight, the more you’ll get. I’ve had enough of your pranks, Annie Dobbs. I’ll tan you so hard you’ll think twice before pestering me again. I’m at the end of my rope with you. You’re nothing but a nuisance." He had punctuated each word with a hearty smack as the lecture went on and on, not realizing that his harsh words had cut into her very soul.
Annie willed herself not to cry even though her heart was breaking in two. "Fine, I’ll never bother you again!"
"Works for me, little girl. Just make sure you keep that promise."
Matt continued to spank away, but Annie didn’t care. Why oh why did she feel the need to irritate him to the point where she ended up in this embarrassing position? It infuriated her that he saw her only as a little girl instead of a woman. He never, ever paid her any attention when she was on her best behavior. She had even gone so far as to wear a stupid frilly dress one time and brushed her hair until it shone and still he had ignored her. The only way she knew how to get him to notice her was to play jokes, but getting paddled wasn’t the kind of attention she craved. Trouble was, she couldn’t figure out what exactly she wanted from Matt.
Genuine tears spilled from her eyes and fell to the ground as Annie’s immature contradictory heart wished Matthew Caine far far away.