Joannie Kay tells three separate stories of love in Tucker’s Frustration. Tucker Warren is in love with Victoria Lawrence, but all the two do is fight. She owns the town’s one and only saloon, and it is a source of never-ending trouble for the Sheriff. He also has a niece who is forever pulling pranks with the help of her friend, Caroline. Once the two younger women are married, perhaps Tucker will be able to turn in his badge and deal with Victoria in the way his heart desires.
Originally published in 2010 & re-edited & re-released for 2015. If you have the earlier version, the new version will automatically appear in your Blushing library.
Forty year old Sheriff Tucker Warren glanced up from the papers he was studying and shook his head when he saw his deputy staring aimlessly out the window. From the slump of his shoulders, Tuck could see the younger man was worried. "What’s on your mind, Dave?" he asked. "Is Carolyn into some more mischief and giving you problems again?"
Dave raised his dark eyes to look at the older man, and replied truthfully, "Aw, Tuck, you know that Carolyn has always been a handful, but with her folks back east for several months, she thinks she’s free to do as she pleases. Carolyn behaves worse than most of the kids she teaches and Doc Foster told me earlier this morning that the school board is thinking of firing her."
"You are her future husband. Do you intend to let her behave as she pleases after you are married?" Tuck asked pointedly, thinking it was past time for the young man to take his high spirited fianc?e in hand, and better yet, apply that firm hand to her backside where it would do the most good. Tuck had old-fashioned ideas where women were concerned, and he wasn’t about to apologize for his convictions.
"We’ve been over this before, Tuck. Carolyn is so damned unpredictable that she’s liable to call off the wedding if I get too firm with her beforehand. Once we’re married, then I’ll have the legal right to insist she obey me, and I will." He frowned and then asked, "You seem awful sure of yourself, Tuck. You ever been married?" Dave felt he knew the sheriff well enough after two years as his deputy to ask a personal question.
"I was married a long time ago," Tucker admitted. "Sherry and our two boys died during an influenza outbreak. I left Grafton Springs and moved here about a year after it happened. Couldn’t stand being alone in that house," the proud lawman admitted. Before Dave could offer him sympathy, he continued speaking, "I put Sherry over my knee quite a few times during the eight years we were married, and a time or two before," he added with meaningful emphasis.
"Did it change how she felt about you?" Dave asked.
"Oh, she had a pout," Tucker admitted with a chuckle. "I let her sulk for a day or two, and then I cut a switch and picked some flowers. Had one in each had and went knocking on her door. When she answered, I asked her which she would rather have, the bouquet of flowers or the switch. Sherry smiled and took the flowers and put them in a glass of water."
"Would you have switched her if she’d continued pouting?" Dave wanted to know.
"Yes." There wasn’t a hint of doubt in Tucker’s voice. "I loved her too much to let her act like that. And, it was best she learn that before we married."
"I hear what you’re sayin’ Tuck." David nodded in understanding, and then declared, "You know that your niece is a big part of the problem. Ever since she came to live with you, she and Carolyn have been in one mess after another. What one doesn’t think of, the other one does."
Tucker nodded in agreement. He couldn’t fault his deputy for speaking the truth. "I can’t believe how my sister spoiled Laurie. I know for a fact that our parents did not permit Anne to misbehave, and if she’d done half of the things Laurie has done since she arrived here, Anne wouldn’t have been able to sit down. Laurie is nearly twenty years old, and has never been spanked." He looked at David, guilt and self-reproach reflected in his gray eyes, and then added, "I have been far too lenient with her up to this point. I know how hard she took her mother’s death, and I didn’t want to seem cruel to her when we barely knew each other, but I meant what I told her after that last prank. If she misbehaves again, she is going to get a sound spanking, in spite of Anne’s views on the subject. It’s high time Laurie learns there are consequences to her actions."
"Aren’t you worried how Laurie will react if you keep your promise, Tuck?" David asked curiously. It was obvious he respected the older man, and Tucker wondered if perhaps David was trying to find the gumption to deal with Carolyn before the wedding vows were spoken.
"Oh, I know how she will react," Tucker answered with a grin. "She’ll holler bloody murder, and end up being one very sorry little girl. I hope you mean to follow through with Carolyn, Dave. It is past time you take a stand and put your foot down, or you will not have one moment’s peace in your marriage."
"I know, Tuck." David looked grim. "I just hope Carolyn and Laurie manage to stay out of trouble, at least until her folks get home. I’m not going to have any choice but to get firm with her if she misbehaves again. Her pa will blame me for sure if she gets herself fired from teaching school."
"Do you really think we should?" Laurie looked at her friend with solemn, green eyes. Suddenly her bright idea for a bit of fun didn’t sound like such a good one. "Uncle Tucker and David were livid when we got caught switching Bessie Taylor’s bloomers with Muriel Brisbee’s drawers," she reminded her friend.
"Oh, he was just upset because those two uppity women got into a huge fight over their clotheslines." Redheaded Carolyn giggled unrepentantly. "Can you imagine those two getting so upset and Bessie accusing Muriel of hanging her big bloomers on Bessie’s line so that folks wouldn’t know how big she is? I never dreamed Muriel would pull down Bessie’s clothesline, and that Bessie would retaliate by dragging Muriel’s clean wash through the mud. What a mess!" Carolyn’s blue eyes were full of mischief as she recalled the scene.
"Uncle Tuck was not happy," Laurie reminded Carolyn. What she hadn’t confided to her friend was that she was punished for the prank. Her uncle made her do extra chores for a week, and she had to do all of the mending before she was allowed to visit with Carolyn again. At the time she hadn’t thought it a bit fair that she was punished when Carolyn got off with just a scolding. And, her cheeks turned pink as she remembered her uncle’s words to her in private. He’d promised to spank her soundly if she misbehaved again anytime soon. Laurie had reminded him that her mother, his very own sister, would be very upset if he punished her in that manner, and he’d told her that he hoped it didn’t become an issue between them, but if she earned a spanking, she was going to get a spanking. "I just don’t know, Carolyn?" Laurie hesitated. Uncle Tuck was a man of his word.
"It was a funny prank," Carolyn insisted. "And you were brilliant to come up with it." The redhead grinned.
"Uncle Tuck got a fat lip trying to break up the fight." Laurie giggled in spite of herself. "He was so mad, threatening to cut a switch and take it to the both of them."
"Until we ‘fessed up." Carolyn nodded, her blue eyes sparkling.
"Yes, and then he threatened us both with a spanking if we pulled another prank," Laurie reminded her friend, wondering if Carolyn had ever been spanked. She had certainly never had a spanking, and she was sure she didn’t want one. Somehow she didn’t think Uncle Tucker’s threat was an idle one. It gave her pause.
"We are grown women, Laurie. David and the sheriff wouldn’t dare treat us like naughty little girls. Besides, this new prank is your idea. It sounds like fun, and we just HAVE to do it. I can just picture those boys’ faces." Carolyn giggled again, having fun.
Laurie couldn’t help giggling, too. It was a good prank, and the boys deserved it so much. "Billy Winston and George Smith are such bullies. I’d love to see them wet their pants."
"I would like to see them get theirs, too, Laurie. Don’t you dare back out on me now," Carolyn laughingly insisted.
"All right, but if we get caught, you’d better have a good explanation to get us out of trouble." Laurie didn’t want to suffer the indignity of a spanking at her age.
"Shhh. I hear them coming," Carolyn whispered to Laurie, as they hid in the darkness. "Are you ready?"
"Yes," Laurie whispered, doing her best not to giggle and give them away as she adjusted the white sheet covering her from head to toe.
"Now!" Carolyn whispered, and she jumped to her feet, flapping her arms wildly, and causing her sheet to whip around as she yelled, "Boooooo! BOOOOOOOOO!"
Laurie came out too, screeching and doing her best to act like a ghost. It was hard to do when she was giggling so hard she could barely breathe.
"Oh! My! God! Help! HELP! HELP MEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!" Margaret Stafford took off running from the cemetery toward town as fast as her little feet could carry her rotund body. "Sheriff! SHERIFF!"
"That was Mrs. Stafford," Laurie suddenly announced, chasing after the woman. "Mrs. Stafford, wait!" she called loudly, but the hysterical woman screamed in fear and kept right on running.
"Laurie, you get back here. No one will believe Mrs. Stafford actually saw a ghost, and we still haven’t seen Billy and George," Carolyn whispered firmly. "Come on, or all this waiting will be for nothing."
"I don’t know, Carolyn; what if?"
"You worry too much, Laurie. Everyone knows that Mrs. Stafford drinks Benny’s Wonderful Elixir by the cupful. They’ll just snicker and wink and think she is a bit tipsy." She giggled, and then said in exasperation, "You have all these wonderful ideas for pranks that are simply hilarious, but then you always want to back out. Are you chicken?" Carolyn taunted. As she predicted, Laurie hurried to her hiding place again, and they waited for the hapless teenagers to put in an appearance, determined to give them a scare.
"Sheriff! Sheriff! Help me! Help me! Oh help me!"
Sheriff Tucker Warren jumped from his seat behind the desk in his office and ran outside, his deputy, David Ryan, right on his heels.
Mrs. Stafford threw herself at Tucker, and she would have bowled him over if he hadn’t braced himself just in the nick of time. "Help me! HELP ME!"
"Calm down, Mrs. Stafford," Tuck said firmly. "Tell me what’s wrong."
"I went to visit my Charlie’s grave, and there are ghosts! They tried to get me!" The woman blubbered. "They chased me!" She bawled hysterically.
"What on earth would ghosts want with you?" another female voice spoke up, full of amusement.
"Victoria!" Tucker looked over at her in exasperation born from years of frustration in dealing with the beautiful woman. "I have my hands full at the moment."
"Very full!" Victoria dryly agreed, earning a dirty look from the handsome sheriff. She never failed to notice his prematurely white hair, and the neatly trimmed mustache he wore. Tucker Warren was an exceedingly handsome man, and she had tried for years to get him to notice her.
Tucker did his best to ignore Victoria’s remark, and the urge to put the elderly woman away from him long enough to take the feisty saloon keeper over his knee and spank her backside. He had had a lot of practice over the last few years quelling that particular urge. "Mrs. Stafford." He gentled his voice and his expression. "I am sure you didn’t really see a ghost. Maybe the wind blowing through the trees?" he kindly suggested.
"Or a drop too many of Benny’s Wonderful Elixir?" Victoria helpfully offered, unable to resist the urge to annoy Tucker.
"There were ghosts! Two of them!" the woman declared, too upset to pay any mind to a woman she would ordinarily snub or give a royal set-down. "They came from nowhere, and howled at me! One of them called my name!"
"It’s probably a couple of kids out for a bit of a prank, ma’am," Tucker said soothingly. "I will go and check it out, and you can be sure if I catch them, they will be at your door first thing in the morning to apologize for frightening you."
"Sheriff, they were real ghosts; I saw them!" she tearfully insisted, trembling with fear. "What if it was Charlie and he doesn’t want me to visit him anymore?" she sobbed, heartbroken at the very idea.
"Charlie would never do that." Tucker was hard pressed not to smile.
"It is the first peace he has had in years," Victoria whispered, rolling her eyes.
Tucker gave her a meaningful look. "Victoria, you could offer to take Mrs. Stafford to Doc’s office for me so that Dave and I can investigate."
"What? And miss all the excitement? Not a chance," Victoria refused. Her favorite pastime was annoying one Tucker Warren. Besides, the uppity Mrs. Stafford wouldn’t want HER help. She owned the saloon, and according to the prim and proper townswomen like Mrs. Stafford, Victoria was a sinner, and to be condemned and shunned. Victoria enjoyed antagonizing and shocking them at every opportunity.
"Dave, see Mrs. Stafford to Doc’s office," Tuck ordered quietly. "I’ll see which of the town’s delinquents are in for a trip to their pa’s woodshed."
David nodded in understanding, then took the sobbing woman’s arm and led her away, trying to calm her and reassure her that Tucker would get to the bottom of things.
"Just once, Victoria, you could help instead of contribute to a problem," Tucker scolded the beautiful woman. She was dressed in a bright blue silk two piece dress. She had a frilly white shirtwaist underneath the jacket, and the lace delicately framed her neck. The jacket fit tightly around her full bust, and the skirt was fitted over her hips, and flared out from her knees to her ankles. She was wearing slippers dyed to match, and her hat was a lovely creation, sitting atop her brunette curls. Victoria had to be the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. And she was a brat, he reminded himself. "Why aren’t you working?" he questioned as she followed him to the cemetery. "I assume your saloon is full to overflowing with cowboys as usual?"
"Business is just fine, and unlike some stuffy people I know, I take some time off now and then. And, I might remind you, that I have no responsibility to a woman who wouldn’t give me a drink of water if I was dying of thirst."
"You have a sharp tongue, Victoria."
"You just don’t like it because I stand up to you, Tucker."
"Victoria, you argue for the sake of arguing. If I were your husband, I would take you over my knee for a sound spanking once every day and twice on Sunday." Tucker meant every word.
"If you were my husband I would scratch your eyes out, you bully!" Victoria stomped her foot.
"No decent man will offer for you as long as you own the Satin Bow Saloon," Tucker said pointedly. "It is why the good women of this town avoid you and talk about you."
"What is that supposed to mean? I sell drinks, period."
"It is not a respectable business for a woman, Victoria. You could do better."
"I beg your pardon?"
"The only reason you own that saloon is to set folks on their ear, Victoria. You like upsetting folks."
"And you like telling them what to do, Sheriff Bossy Butt."
"And you don’t listen to a word I say," he scolded. "One of these days?" His voice trailed off as they reached the edge of the cemetery. "You’d best wait here, Victoria," Tucker ordered.
"I’ll do no such thing. I’m not afraid of ghosts."
"Suit yourself," Tucker shrugged. "You’ll probably scare them off anyway," he predicted.
Victoria gave him a dirty look, but before she could say anything, two "ghosts" suddenly appeared, making all sorts of eerie noises until one of them whispered, "Oh no! Uncle Tucker!"
Tucker was angry and didn’t bother to hide it. "Laurie, Carolyn, take off those ridiculous sheets and come out here."
Victoria was making a valiant effort to calm down, and suddenly realized that she had thrown herself at Tucker for protection. She slapped at his hands. "You just let me go, Tucker Warren!"
Tucker released her with a grin. "Not scared of ghosts, huh, Victoria?"
Victoria stomped her foot in outrage. She hated showing any vulnerability in front of the exasperating man. But, truth to tell, her heart was still pounding, and she felt a twinge or two of sympathy for the cantankerous and venomous-tongued Margaret Stafford.
"It was just a joke, Uncle Tuck." Laurie hastened to explain. She didn’t like the firm set of her uncle’s jaw, and his promise to spank her "next time" kept ringing over and over in her mind.
"We will discuss this in my office," Tucker said firmly. He pointed, and the girls hurried ahead of him. Arguing with the man right now would be extremely foolish and unwise.
"It was only a prank, Tucker," Victoria insisted, recovering quickly, and promptly deciding to take the younger women’s side. Anything to annoy Tucker. "Weren’t you ever young?"
"I was young, and taken to the woodshed often enough, Victoria," he told her in a short tone of voice. "Something you should have experienced a few times."
"You are a bully!" Victoria promptly announced.
"And you are treading on thin ice, Victoria. Unless you want to find out what I mean, you take your sweet butt back to your saloon."
"You have no right to threaten me, Tucker Warren."
"Lucky for you, Victoria." His gray eyes impaled her with their intensity, and she couldn’t help but take a step back. "Go on now, or else I’ll forget I have no legitimate right to bare your backside and smack it a bright red to match that rouge on your cheeks and lips."
Victoria stomped off, insulted as hell, and wondering what she could do to get even with the aggravating man. He had no right to threaten her.