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From the moment Rebekah McTavish meets the beautiful, cultured Madame Jewel, she has but one dream. She wanted nothing more than to get a job at The Red Petticoat Saloon and don the coveted red petticoat worn by Jewel's gems. She discovers that getting hired is the easy part—who knew that Jewel's partner, has a tendency to frown upon gems who break the rules.
Jebidiah Justice spent much of his youth avoiding the little red-head. Even his constant threats to tan her hide did nothing to sway the little pest to better behavior. Now, as the sheriff of Culpepper Cove, avoidance is no longer possible. On the night he catches her red-handed breaking and entering, he has to make a choice. Can he force himself to arrest the girl he remembers or will he lose his heart in rescuing the woman she's become?
Rebekah becomes Ruby, the newest gem at the saloon, finding a home and a sense of family she craves. The only thing standing between her and her red petticoat is a man who refuses to call her anything but Red and warns her that if she puts so much as a pinky toe on those stairs, the only red thing under her skirts will be the hue he paints across her backside. And, this time, she had a feeling that he isn't just threatening.
Will the two leave the past behind and make a future together or will their chance of happiness be taken away?
DISCLAIMER: This book includes the spanking of adult women and explicit sexual scenes including anal play. If these offend you, please do not purchase this book.
About The Red Petticoat series
The Red Petticoat Saloon series is a collection of books written by #1 and USA Today bestselling authors. Each book tells the unique story of a different woman, 'a gem', who comes to the saloon to find a safe haven and discovers they become part of a family. Recurring characters appear in each book to allow readers a continuity as they learn about the women who have learned to bend but have not broken under the harshness that life has to offer. It is a series where strong, loving men find not only entertainment at the saloon but the special women who reside under its roof.
~ This title is an Amazon Exclusive ~
A shiver coursed through her body as she crept towards the building. It was far creepier and much darker than she'd realized it would be. With the moon slipping behind the clouds, there was no longer even a glimmer of light to help guide her. Part of her was grateful for the darkness as it kept her from clearly seeing the branches of trees that seemed to be reaching out to grab her. Ducking beneath the lines strung around massive trunks, she finally slipped through the back door. Forcing herself to continue and with her hands waving out in front of her, Rebekah found her way to the counter. The silence was broken with her small, barely contained shriek when her hands encountered something soft and fuzzy only to send it to the floor to land on the tips of her boots. Her heart was pounding until she realized that she hadn't touched some animal intent on attacking her but had knocked a stack of neatly folded clothing off its resting place.
"It's only laundry," she muttered as she bent down to remove the weight from her feet. "Damn it!" were her next words. Instead of a nice bundle, the clothing was unfettered and had sprawled across the floor. "He can't even tie the fucking twine to keep it neat!" Gathering the shirts, pants and the flannel union suit that she'd brushed her hands against, she piled them onto the counter. Turning away, she took a step before shaking her head and turning back. Regardless of how angry she was at her former employer, the customer who paid for the service didn't deserve to find his hard earned money had earned him nothing but a wrinkled wad of clothing. Not needing light as she'd performed the task a gazillion times, she shook out each item before carefully folding them again and piling one atop another until she had the pile neatly stacked. It took her another few minutes to pull a length of twine from the holder mounted to the wall and cut it with the small knife hanging from a string. Having accomplished the task a thousand times before, she was able to wrap the twine around the items, securing them without wrinkling and tying the twine off in a neat bow. Not able to see the bill that would normally be tucked under the twine, she had to be satisfied she'd done the best she could.
Her vision had grown accustomed to the blackness and allowed her to see her way to the small office where Mr. March sat in comfort while she sweated in the sweltering heat or shivered in the cutting cold out in the yard, her dress soaked as she scrubbed load after load of filthy clothing in a huge cauldron. Her hands would become red and raw from the coarse lye soap and her back and shoulders would grow numb from lifting the drenched items, wringing them out as much as possible and then hanging them on one of the many lines that ran from tree to tree in the yard at the back of the laundry. The work was hard, the hours long but she hadn't truly minded… not until the day he'd refused to give her what she'd earned.
"Stingy bastard," she hissed as she began to open drawers of his desk. Not finding what she sought, she slammed the drawer closed and grabbed the pull of the last one. When it refused to open at her tug, she cursed but also grinned. This had to be where he'd stashed what was hers. She returned to the front room and cut the knife free from its tether. Sliding to the floor behind the desk, she attempted to pick the lock on the front of the drawer. Several frustrating minutes later, she cursed and slipped the knife into her pocket. It was too risky to light the lantern to see her way around the lock but she was not yet defeated. While still locked, she had felt some definite give when pulling on the drawer. Settling onto her backside, she braced her feet against the frame of the desk and tried again. Leaning back and pushing with her feet at the same time, she grunted and then squealed when the drawer gave up the fight, sending her to topple backwards into a table, causing items on its surface to fall to the floor. Rebekah wasn't sure which scared her the most—the shattering of the lamp which threw glass shards onto her or the bloom of light that appeared in the room. Shaking her head, she rubbed her fingers against the lump that was forming on the back of her head where it had connected with the table. "Well, hell, that hurt!" she exclaimed and then looked up, freezing instantly to see a large form leaning over the desk.
"Don't move," a voice commanded which instantly had her attempting to scramble away only to cry out in pain. "I said not to move. There is glass everywhere…"
"Fuck!" she snarled, lifting her hand to discover a shard of glass protruding from her palm. "Ow, ow," she whimpered, her fingers shaking as she began to draw the glass from her skin, her tummy churning at the sight of the blood welling. God, she hated blood and from her place on the floor, in the shadow of the desk, the blood looked black and copious. "Fuck, fuck…" she moaned, the shard evidently much deeper than she'd thought.
"No need to curse," Jebidiah said, going around the desk to squat before her. "Leave it, sweetie, we'll…"
"Sweetie?" A loud grunt told of the presence of another man. "I hardly think it's right to call her sweetie. Hell, she's nothing but a thief! I demand you throw her ass into that jail of yours!"
"Now, Harry, calm down. I'm sure we can straighten this out…"
"I caught her red-handed," Harry interrupted. "And I'm not just talking about that blood." He ignored the moan from the floor and waved his hand holding the lamp in the air. Rebekah, already feeling nauseated from the blood that continued to well, felt her stomach flip as the light seemed to skitter and bounce. She moaned, her concern no longer on the fact that she'd been caught. Instead, she was desperately praying she'd manage not to lose her meager supper. Spying one of several canvas bags that had spilled out of the drawer, she was reaching for it when the sheriff spoke.
"Touch that and I'll have to arrest you," Jeb said.
"Arrest her now!" Harry demanded, joining them behind the desk and bending to snatch the bag from the floor. Her eyes slammed closed to shut out the dancing light caused by his actions even as she felt herself being lifted from the floor.
"Hey, watch it! She's got blood all over her. It's dripping everywhere!" As Jeb shifted his burden carefully so as not to disturb her injured hand, Harry stomped from the room, following the two, calling out when the sheriff moved towards the counter. "No! You can't put her there! I've got clean laundry ready to be picked up. You know how difficult it is to get blood out of clothing?"
"I need to check on her hand…"
"You can do that in her cell," Harry said. "Hell, if she were some man, you'd have him behind locked doors already! I'm the injured party here…"
Jeb shook his head. "As I said, we'll discuss that later." When Harry began to protest, he said, "You want this to go any faster, you can go get Dr. Norwood."
"Fine, but you take the little thief to the jail right now! No telling what she's stolen before we caught her! God knows what she is hiding beneath her clothes! I want her stripped and searched!"
Rebekah lifted her head from where she'd laid it against the sheriff's chest. "What? You shit! I'm not a thief!"
"You are," Harry countered with a disbelieving huff as he stormed out the door, leaving Jeb and his burden in the dark.
"I'm not a thief!" she began again only to stop as her stomach clutched when she attempted to curl her hand into a fist. The pain had her whimpering.
"Shh, be still," Jeb said. "Let's worry about that after Doc fixes you up." When she began to struggle, he moved one hand to slap against the back of her skirt. "Be still. I don't want any glass on your clothing to cut you. You need to be still until we can get your dress off…"
"Fuck that," Rebekah hissed, "you can't…" Another swat of his hand changed the direction of her thoughts. "Stop swatting me! Put me down!"
"No," Jeb said, easily adjusting his hold as he strode down the dark street towards the jail. "I said we'd discuss this later, but I'm warning you; if I hear you cursing again, I'll be doing a great deal more than popping your behind." A third swat demonstrated his sincerity as she squirmed again before stilling.
Rebekah didn't know which was worse, the throbbing in her hand or the threat of being spanked by the sheriff. She didn't remember him being so… big. No, not big; he was huge, carrying her as easily as if she weighed no more than a feather. It wasn't until he pushed through the door of the jail that another fear flooded through her. She'd never been inside the building before and the sight of a pair of cells, one door open waiting to swallow her whole and to lock her away from freedom had her head swimming and her pulse racing. The soft whimpers she'd been issuing turned into a much louder moan as fear gripped her insides.
"Shh, the doctor should be here soon," Jeb said, setting his burden down, not inside the jail cell but on a chair that sat beside his desk. "Sit still," he instructed, lifting her arm and placing it on top of his desk. "I'll be right back."
Rebekah kept her eyes away from her palm which was sticky with blood and watched as he stepped through a door at the back of the room. She gave a soft squeal when a loud sound told her she wasn't alone. She was pushing to her feet when his voice filled the room.
"Try to run, little girl, and I'll make sure you don't feel comfortable sitting for a week."
She could feel heat infuse her cheeks at the threat—no, it sounded far more like a promise than a threat. The sheriff was not known for being a soft man. His reputation was that he was stern and tolerated no nonsense in his town, especially since gold had been discovered in the foothills that surrounded Culpepper Cove. She'd known him for years but had managed to avoid him in any official capacity until tonight. Her heart skipped a beat as the memory of being in his arms replayed in her mind. He'd not yelled at her as she'd expected. Instead, despite his size which was double her own, he'd been exceptionally gentle. Well, if you didn't count those swats.
Sinking down again, she squirmed a bit as she wondered if it were proper to threaten to spank a prisoner. Another snort drew her eyes to the cells to see the blanket moving on one of the cots. Evidently she wasn't the only citizen to be in trouble this evening. Grateful the prisoner was deeply asleep and snoring, unable to witness her humiliation, she was in place when Jeb returned with a basin of water and a cloth.
He placed the items on his desk after moving a stack of paperwork to the other side just as the door opened to admit the doctor and Harry.
"Why isn't she in a cell?" Harry demanded, waving the lamp.
"Put that down," Jeb said, "Red… Miss McTavish's clothing and hair are wet from the oil from the broken lamp. I thank God she hadn't lit it and I have no desire to set her on fire now." At Rebekah's sneer, which was directed toward the blustering man, he added, "at least nothing more than her backside." He was quite pleased to see her look change to one of shock and then embarrassment as her eyes darted to his.
"I still say that if she were a man, you'd not give a fuck…"
"Harry, please," Dr. Norwood said, placing his black bag on the desk next to the ewer of water. "Calm down before you have an apoplexy. I can only deal with one patient at a time."
Ignoring the man's irritated huff, the doctor washed his hands and then smiled down at Rebekah. "I'm gonna wash your hand, Rebekah." At her whimper, he said, "Now, you know I'm not going to hurt you. I promise I'll be gentle but, honey, I need to be able to see clearly." He reached for her hand and she flinched, pulling away.
Jeb was about to chastise her when he saw tears sliding down her cheeks that had lost all of the color her embarrassment had painted on her pale skin. When she began to keen and sway, he rushed to her before she could topple out of the chair.
"Whoa, easy, honey, I've got you," he said, picking her up once more and taking her place in the chair. Settling her on his lap, he kept her in place with one arm around her waist as he took a gentle hold on her wrist, pinning it to the desk. "Just don't look," he suggested and was pleased when she buried her face in his shirt. He continued to make soothing sounds as the doctor slowly and gently pried her fingers from their curl until her hand was flat and the piece of glass became visible.
"Good grief," Harry muttered, his disdain for the attention given the little criminal obvious. "It's just a piece of fuck…"
"Harry, why don't you go get some of Rebekah's clothing so that she can change?" Jeb suggested, tightening his hold on Rebekah when she began to squirm. "I can see glass in her skirts and in her hair. I'm sure you don't want her to be injured further."
"I don't know where to find them," Harry said, "she moved all her stuff out when she quit."
Jeb's eyebrow rose as he looked down at the girl on his lap. "You quit?"
She managed a small nod. "I'm a gem now."
If she'd said she had found the mother-lode, he wouldn't have been as shocked. "How is that possible?" he asked.
"Miss Jewel hired me," Rebekah said with a small shrug. "She doesn't think I'm a thief... ow!"
"Just relax, Rebekah," the doctor said, dabbing the soaped cloth around the wound. "It won't hurt as much if you just relax. You can hold onto Jeb's hand if you need."
Even as her fingers curled around his, Jeb was shaking his head. "We'll be discussing that as well," he warned, linking his fingers with hers, a bit amazed at the strength of her hold. Looking up from her pale face where her freckles were becoming more prominent by the minute, he again addressed Harry.
"Run over and ask Jewel for something for Rebekah to wear," he instructed.
"I'm not your errand boy. Where's Tanner?" Harry asked.
"Out," Jeb replied. "In fact, he might be at The Red Petticoat making his rounds…"
"Great," Harry said, walking towards the door. "Perhaps he'll remind you that prisoners aren't supposed to be cuddled and coddled. She should be behind bars. You lock up a drunk but sit there and hold a girl on your lap like she's some… some kind of angel when she's nothing but a damned thief!"
When he felt her head lift from his shoulder and pretty sure he knew what she was going to say, Jeb pressed his hand against the back of her head, pressing her down. "Don't," he said softly, moving his hand to pat against her bottom. He bit back a grin as she stilled instantly and then tucked her tightly against him when she whimpered. "Shh, you're doing so well, sweetie. Just a bit longer."
"Good lord," Harry said, giving another huff as he stomped out the door. Jeb watched as the doctor gently began to withdraw the glass. Blood instantly began to flow again, staining both Rebekah's skin and the towel beneath her hand. Shit, if the shard had been any longer, it would have exited the back of her hand. His fingers gently rubbed circles against her wrist, calming her as the glass was finally laid aside. With its removal, their patient continued to cry as the doctor palpated her palm, forcing more blood to flow.
"I don't see any more glass," Dr. Norwood said, daubing the wound with soapy water. "Keep her still," he warned, reaching into his bag and removing a small jar. "This will burn a bit but I don't want to risk infection." He waited until Jeb nodded before pouring a small amount of alcohol onto Rebekah's palm. She instantly stiffened and then cried out.
"It's all right," Jeb assured her, "I know it stings but it's better than getting infected."
"It doesn't sting; it fucking burns! Ow! Quit it!"
"I will when you quit cursing, little girl." Jeb kept his hand against her bottom telling himself it wasn't because he had discovered she had filled out quite nicely but that it was his duty to be prepared to deliver another swat if her mouth spewed further vulgarity. When had she become so loose with language that would have earned her a trip to the barn every time her Pa heard her curse? It was with a bit of regret when she relaxed against him but he found almost as much pleasure as he ran one hand up and down her back, watching as the doctor began to wrap her hand in clean strips of cloth. Once finished, he removed all signs of the procedure, taking the bloody rags and the red tinged bowl of water into the back room. Returning, he closed his bag.
"Keep it wrapped and dry," he instructed. "I'll check it every day to make sure it's healing properly but I have no doubt that it will."
"Thanks, Doc," Jeb said, standing and setting Rebekah onto the chair again in order to shake his hand.
"Yes, thank you," Rebekah said, her voice only quivering a bit.
"You're welcome. I'll be by in the morning." He chuckled as he walked to the door. "Should I come by the jail or go to the saloon?"
Jeb was about to state that he'd let him know when Rebekah spoke up. "The Red Petticoat. That's where I work now."
Nodding, the doctor left and Jeb turned to address her but again she beat him to the punch. "Can I go now?"
"The only place you are going is the corner."
"What?" Rebekah said, her mouth dropping open. "I'm not going to do that!"
"Oh yes you are," Jeb said, his decision made. "You'll stand with your nose in the corner and think about the trouble you've gotten yourself into."
"You will," Jeb assured her. "The only question is whether you'll do it before or after your spanking."
"You wouldn't dare!" she hissed. "I'm not some child!"
"You most certainly are," he countered, pointing to the corner. "Now, get your nose against the wall and be grateful I'm not requiring you hold your skirts up and display your naughty behind." He discovered that her facial color could indeed match the hue of her red hair, her flashing green eyes showing her indignation. When she opened her mouth, he took a single step towards her, lifting his hand and had to bite back a grin when she squealed and raced around his desk. He was pleasantly surprised when she didn't attempt to break for the door but wasn't prepared when she dashed into the open cell and attempted to pull the heavy door shut.
Ignoring her cry of pain as her injured hand curled around one of the bars, he shook his head and stepped into the cell.
"Put me down!" she demanded, kicking out as he easily lifted her and carried her to the corner. Though he did set her down, she instantly protested his obedience to her demand. "No! I didn't mean here…"
"Yes, here," he said, turning her to face the wall. "Move an inch and you'll be displaying a red hot rear." At the stomp of her foot and a muttered curse word, her next response was another squeal when his hand connected to her bottom three times. These were not the warning swats he'd given her earlier—these were intended to really get her attention. He was quite pleased to discover they did.
"Stop it!" she cried, attempting to arch away from him.
"Are you going to do what you're told?" he asked, his palm ready to continue her lesson.
"Yes, Sheriff," she said with a sneer.
"Try again and I suggest you do so with the proper tone." He watched as her eyes narrowed.
"You are just as bossy as ever aren't you? You think that star on your chest gives you the right… ow! Quit hitting me!"
"I'm not hitting, I'm swatting and will continue to do so until you answer me properly."
"Did you swat his ass or did he answer you properly?" she asked, pointing to the man whose snores seemed to be growing louder, his breath causing his red beard to lift with every exhaled snort.
"Red, you are really, really pushing me here. If you notice, he is locked behind bars. Do you honestly want to learn how it feels to join him?" He watched her eyes go back to the cell where the man snorted and turned over on his cot. It was all he could do not to laugh when a rather loud expulsion came from the cell; one that did not come from the man's mouth.
Rebekah's nose crinkled and she gave her answer. "Fine, yes, Sheriff, sir."
Jeb grinned. "You are just as stubborn as you've always been, little girl. Move an inch and we'll see how long it takes to turn your bottom as red as your hair." He stepped away and when she didn't move, he nodded. "Step closer. I want your nose touching the wall."
"You just said not to move!" she retorted, turning her head to look over her shoulder. All it took was a movement of his hand before she obeyed.
"Good girl," he said. "I'd normally require that you put your hands behind your back, but I want you to put them on top of your head." He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and spread it out over the top of her hair.
"What are you doing?"
"I don't want any glass in your hair to cut you. Put your hands on top of your head. The elevation will help with the throbbing." At her look, he again had to bite back a grin. "Well, at least the throbbing in your hand. There's not much I can offer to help the throbbing in your backside, Red." Her cheeks pinkened further as she obeyed.
"Don't call me that. I'm not a little girl any more!"
Jeb grinned at her indignation. She certainly looked like a little girl—make that a naughty little girl standing in the corner. He'd barely had time to move to sit behind his desk to consider the evening's events before the door opened to admit Harry as well as his deputy, Zeke Tanner.
"Miss Jewel and Gabriel are coming," Tanner said, not even showing surprise at seeing a corner of their office occupied by a small woman, nose to the wall.
"The doc's fixed her hand," Harry said, his voice rising. "Why ain't the little thief in a cell yet?"
"Damn it, I told you I'm not a thief!"
Every pair of eyes moved to the corner to see Rebekah had turned from the wall, her hands on her hips.
"Turn around," Jeb said.
Stomping her foot, she shook her head. "No!"
"Red, I'm not joking. You are in enough trouble as it is."
"He's the thief! He stole my fucking money and I want it back! I demand you throw his fat ass in a cell! And stop calling me Red!"
Deputy Tanner shook his head when the girl instantly turned to the wall as his boss strode the few steps to her, his hand connecting with a crack against her behind.
"I told you to stop cursing, young lady, and one more word and I swear, I'll spank you right here in front of everybody."
"You haven't changed at all! You are nothing but a big bully!" she shouted but was wise enough not to turn around.
"Goodness, what's going on here?" Jewel asked, entering before Gabriel. "Why does Rebekah need a change of clothes? Oh, um forget that, why is she in the corner, and what happened to her hand?"
"Seems the sheriff thinks corner time is better than being locked up where she belongs…"
Jeb cut Harry off. "I don't lock up children."
"I'm not a child!" Rebekah exclaimed loudly but still didn't move.
"Children?" This time the question was asked by a deep voice belonging to Gabriel. "She told us she was of legal age."
Jeb shook his head in disbelief. Seems she had no concern about digging herself further into a hole. "What year were you born?"
"That's not a year, Red. Answer the question and know that lying will earn you another spanking," Jeb said.
"I'm not! It was um, 1830…
"So, you're going to turn 20?"
"What? Oh, no, I mean 1832… no, 1831… 32?"
"She never was very good at figures," Harry offered. "She's a liar and a thief!"
"Deputy, go get Doc Norwood," Jeb instructed.
"Why?" The question didn't come from Tanner but from the corner.
"Because, little girl, he'll have records from when you were born."
"Oh, well, fine," Rebekah said, her feet shuffling a bit. "Ma had me at home and the doctor hasn't been in Culpepper that long."
"You forget," Jeb said, as he gave her bottom a pat. "I was here when you fell out of that apple tree and broke your arm. I'm quite positive Clay had to give the doctor your information when he brought you into town." Seeing her stiffen at the mention of her older brother, he leaned a bit closer. "And, Red, if I have to bother Doc again and he confirms what I already know, I promise you'll wish you hadn't lied to me. If Clay were here, I'm quite positive he'd agree that a good spanking is exactly what you need." He gave her a moment and then sighed deeply. "Go on, Zeke; get the Doc."
"No, wait," Rebekah said, giving her own sigh. "Fine, I'm not twenty."
"Red," Jeb drawled, the one word causing her to shift her feet again or perhaps it was the hand that patted against her skirts.
"I'll be eighteen in just a few days," she said, "I… I just needed a job and…"
"Oh, honey," Jewel said. "You didn't have to lie to me or to Sheriff Justice. I still would have hired you to work."
"You would?" Rebekah said, turning her head to look at Jewel.
"Yes, sweetie. You wouldn't work upstairs, of course, but there are other jobs you can do until you turn eighteen."
"But I want a red petticoat," Rebekah said, and Jeb shook his head.
"The only red you'll be wearing under your skirts is the red on your bottom," Jeb said. His statement drew a small gasp from Jewel but he was more interested in the fact that Red's eyes seemed to grow huge when Gabriel spoke.
"The only question seems to be exactly how red, young lady. Lying by our employees is not tolerated, and neither is thievery."
"How many times do I have to say it? I am not a thief!"
Jeb found it interesting that instead of instantly beginning to plead for mercy, she'd again stomped her foot, her green eyes flashing as she repeated the same words he'd now heard several times.
"Everyone calm down," he instructed. "Let's sit down and get this cleared up. It's quite late and I'm sure everyone is tired." Motioning for Jewel to take the chair behind his desk, he turned to the corner. "I'm going to let you out of the corner, but, if you curse, scream, or throw a tantrum, you'll find yourself right back nose to the wall. Do you understand me?"
"Red, I suggest you answer correctly."
Lowering her hands from her head, she shrugged. "Yes."
"Really? And you state you aren't a child. Answer properly."
Looking around the room evidently told her that she'd find no support as long as she continued to be belligerent. "Yes, sir, I understand."
"See, that wasn't so hard now was it? Good girl," Jeb praised. "You may take a seat."
Harry's grunt showed his displeasure but he said, "Finally. You see what I've had to deal with every damn day; the girl's got quite the fucking mouth on her." When his observation didn't receive any comments, he shrugged. "You can't deny the truth. Hell, sheriff, you were right there to catch her red-handed. She's been fixed up by the doc and it's time for justice."
"You wouldn't know justice if it bit you on your ar… bu… backside." Heads swiveled to look at Rebekah who was glaring at Harry.
"You've got the floor," Jeb said, leaning a hip against the edge of his desk. He watched her sit up straighter in her chair as she prepared to testify. He just hoped she'd remember to think before she spoke. Then again, he'd have absolutely no trouble tipping her over his desk and giving her a reminder of exactly what happened to little girls who continued to tell less than the truth.