‘To Have and To Scold’
Sparks fly between Annie and her handsome neighbor, Matthew Caine.
Matt chuckled dryly. “How long have we been neighbors, Annie?” She opened her mouth and he cut her off with a stern glower. “I’ve known you since the day you were born. You’ve pestered me from the moment you began to walk. You know darn well that whenever I threatened you with a spanking I made good on my threat, didn’t I?” She rolled her eyes as if bored and he struggled to keep his temper in check. “You better rethink about whether or not you’re coming with me under your own steam before I lose what little control I have left on my temper and believe me it ain’t much.”
The little brat retaliated immediately by kicking him in the shin. Matt’s eyes widened in shock at her open defiance.
“There, I rethunk it, and I didn’t have to say a word,” she declared with exaggerated sweetness.
Raucous laughter surrounded him. By damn, when he got his hands on her, she’ll be singing a high note soon enough. “Let’s see who’s all smug and smart after I whip your butt.” He dragged her over to one of the tables, toed out a chair and propped one booted foot on the seat. Annie wriggled this way and that and managed to squirm her way out of his hold. She dove under the table and stayed there.
Laughter erupted once again. “Wowie, this sure is the most entertainment we had in a
“Hell yeah,” someone else shouted. “Show her who’s boss, Caine.”
“Lookee, there, she’s more slippery than a newborn calf.”
Matt scowled at the crowd of onlookers. A few men grumbled at their source of
amusement being taken away, but they relented and stepped back when he refused to back down.
“Annie, come with me right now or it’ll be worse for you when I get you home.”
“I won’t let you take me home.” Her muffled pitiful voice floated up from beneath the
table. “I ain’t going back to the Lazy D.”
Matt’s head thumped along with his shin. Threats wouldn’t work at this point if Annie
believed he was bound and determined to escort her back to the Lazy D. He ran a hand down his face before he flipped up the red-checkered tablecloth. His eyes nearly bugged out of his head. Holy shit! The little brat had a gun pointed right at him. His throat convulsed. Annie was a good shot, but in her frame of mind, there was no telling what she’d do. “Um, Annie, be a good girl and put down that gun.”
At the mention of a gun everybody scattered. Tables were overturned and Hank suddenly had a whole lot of company behind the bar.
A tear slid down Annie’s cheek. “Please don’t make me shoot you, Matt. I don’t want to, but I will if you try to take me back there. Eva will drug me with sleeping powders and give me to Lloyd.” She choked on a sob. “I don’t like Lloyd. He scares me.”
Matt tamped down his rage. Drug her? Jesus! “She ain’t drugging you with nothing and you ain’t going anywhere near Lloyd so get that thought right out of your pretty little head. Sally told me all about it, Darlin’, and I promise I will not to take you to the Lazy D.”
Annie’s eyes were a vivid green against the paleness of her face. “Why’d you call me
“Call you what?”
Matt shrugged. “It’s just an endearment. Don’t you like it when I call you Darlin’?”
She sniffled. “I’m not used to it. You always call me a brat or a nuisance.”
She sure had a way of making him feel like shit. “A very wise man warned me that
females tend to remember things best forgotten. I apologize, Darlin’ for calling you a nuisance, but you are a brat. I’d love it if you’d be my brat.”