Can a bossy lawman convince a contrary young woman to obey him?
Nineteen-year-old Mary Appleton manages a successful restaurant in the small town of Thorndale. Though passionate about cooking, she’s naïve about the dangers of the world and innocent when it comes to love and romance.
Benjamin Gray, the stern new deputy in town, knows the restaurant is vulnerable to robbers, and his protective instincts ignite when he notices that Mary doesn’t safeguard her money. When she refuses to lock up the cash in her register, Deputy Gray gives her only one other choice: Accept a hard spanking over his knee.
To Mary’s surprise, the punishment does nothing to quell her attraction to Ben. Rather, she finds herself smitten by her older lover who brings her as much pleasure as pain. But will she accept his advice when it matters most, or will her contrary behavior ruin them both?
Publisher’s Note: Mary Quite Contrary is a standalone story in the Lost and Found in Thorndale series. It contains sexual scenes and adult punishment spanking. If that doesn’t appeal to you, please don’t buy this book.
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Yesterday, the town troublemaker swiped two pies from where they were cooling on the windowsill, causing Mary Appleton to experience a horribly frantic Sunday morning. She’d woken up in the early hours to bake two new pies because it wasn’t right for a restaurant to be without dessert, especially when her patrons expected it after dinner. The theft irked Mary because Willow McAllister didn’t need to steal. If she was hungry, she could have asked for something to eat and Mary would have obliged.
Though it was still morning, the kitchen was already hot. She grumbled to herself as she grabbed her broom and swept up the ashes that had drifted to the stone hearth. Chopped garlic and translucent onion sizzled in bacon fat over the stove. Once she finished sweeping, Mary rinsed her hands, picked up the platter of potatoes she’d sliced earlier, and slid them into the skillet.
Most of the townsfolk were still in church, but in another hour Mary’s Restaurant would be filled with hungry men, women, and children eager to fill their bellies with chuck after filling their minds with fire and brimstone. For most people, Sunday was a day of rest. For Mary, it was her least restful day, even when she wasn’t hurrying to bake two new pies. The restaurant her parents had opened when she was a child, named after her, was popular in the small yet bustling town of Thorndale. Other than the saloon, it was the only public place where hot meals were served, making it a regular destination for families with a little extra money in their pocket.
After opening the front panel of her cast-iron oven, Mary peered at the chicken. It looked charred on the top. Blast. She’d been too busy worrying about why the new pies looked flat that she’d forgotten about the chicken. She grabbed four rags to protect her hands and removed the roasting pan, then placed it next to the four other fully cooked chickens on the counter. Each diner would receive the same meal, chicken and garlic fried potatoes, as well as the same dessert—rhubarb pie. In larger establishments, such as the one her parents were in the midst of establishing in the next town over, guests had multiple choices for what they’d like to eat. But in Thorndale, the kitchen was small and the help scarce, so diners could not be afforded that luxury.
Mary was one of the youngest people to be in charge of such a major business on Main Street. There was also her friend Victoria, aged nineteen like her, who owned the clothing and fabric store. The other store owners along the main strip in Thorndale were older men who had lived there since the town’s inception. There was Charles Campbell, who ran the mercantile; Peter Ellis, the blacksmith who banged out horseshoes and repaired busted wagon axles; and James Gordon, the owner of the livery. Managing a restaurant was a great deal of responsibility for someone so young, but Mary had always been conscientious and hardworking.
A few years back, she’d encountered a major setback when, like so many in town, she’d contracted malaria. Luckier than most, she’d recovered, but not before the high fever took away her sense of taste and smell. It was as though her brain got fried in some areas, forever impairing her. For a cook to be unable to smell or taste her own food was a terrible shame, but Mary didn’t complain. She knew there were others in life with far worse lots.
Carolyn, the young server who assisted Mary on the weekends, waltzed through the double doors that connected the kitchen to the dining area. “Howdy, Mary,” she said, as she fetched her apron from a hook on the wall. She knotted it around her waist and proceeded to tie up her hair, all in swift, familiar gestures.
Mary greeted her, then handed her a large pitcher of squeezed lemons and water along with a sack of sugar. “Mix that for me, will you? Were you able to slip out of church unnoticed, or did the preacher give you a mean look again?”
Carolyn poured a small amount of sugar into the pitcher. “He was praying when I left, so if he opened his eyes and saw me leave, that’s his own sin.” She stirred the sugar and tasted the juice. Like she’d done many times previously, she would gradually add sugar to the lemon water until it was just sweet enough, a simple but impossible task for Mary, who couldn’t tell by taste whether the lemonade was too sweet or too sour.
Mary giggled. She enjoyed Carolyn’s forthrightness, which always bordered on impertinence. “I reckon you’re right. The preacher should keep his eyes closed during his own prayer.”
“And I don’t think anyone else saw me sneak out. Through the whole service, the unattached ladies were busy batting their eyes at the dashing new deputy,” Carolyn continued. “You heard about him, didn’t you? Marshal Clyde hired a man just last month—Deputy Gray—and he was in church today.” She let out a low whistle. “I tell you, he could leave his boots next to my bed any day of the week.”
“Aren’t you a bit young for such talk?” Mary admonished good-naturedly, though this was a familiar conversation. Carolyn was only fifteen, but she was already thinking about the marital relations that would happen when she found a husband who met her long list of requirements.
“He’s too old for me,” she admitted. “Probably getting on toward thirty. Might be right for you, though.”
“I’m too busy for a man,” Mary said. Secretly, though, she looked forward to taking a look at the new deputy. She hoped he would eat at the restaurant and she could peek at him through the top of the double doors.
The bell on the front door jingled, indicating that their first customer had arrived. “That’s my cue.” Carolyn picked up the lemonade and left the kitchen for the dining area.
Within a quarter of an hour, there was a raucous din coming from the main room. Business would be good today. Time flew, as it always did on a busy day. Mary cooked and chopped and garnished and stoked the fire. The kitchen was quick to heat up in the afternoon sun, so she opened the back door. She didn’t stop working for four hours straight, except to peer for a long moment into the dining room at the new deputy seated by the front window.
She stared at him for longer than what would be considered socially acceptable. Carolyn hadn’t been exaggerating about his good looks. At first, she could only see a shock of raven black hair and his profile, indicating a strong jaw. But when he turned to chat with some people at a neighboring table, she saw his teasing smile, straight nose, and perfectly lush lips. He was what her friend Victoria would call “proportionate.” It was an accurate way to describe him, except for his shoulders, which seemed a tad too broad if that was possible. He looked as strong as an ox.
As soon as she regained her senses, Mary backed into the kitchen quickly, not wanting the handsome stranger to see her in such a disheveled state. Rather, she would dress in her finest frock tomorrow and find an excuse to take a walk to the marshal’s office where he worked. And she would have to confer with both Carolyn and Victoria about which hat and gloves to wear for the occasion.
Mary got back to work. As she sliced the rhubarb pies, she thought about what it would be like to have such a handsome man court her. Would he hold her hand as she stepped up to the seat of his buggy? Did he even have a buggy? Where was he from? She realized she needed to acquire a lot more information about the handsome stranger from Carolyn, and it was silly to daydream about courtship when she didn’t even know the man’s Christian name. But that didn’t stop her from imagining his lips against hers.
She was so lost in her thoughts, which had turned erotic, that she didn’t hear someone walk through the back door until the sound of a man clearing his throat startled her. She let out a squeak and whirled around, finding herself face to face with the very person on her mind. She clutched the knife she’d been using to slice the pie tight in her fist.
Deputy Gray held up his hands palms forward in a surrendering gesture. “Sorry, miss, I didn’t mean to startle you.” He glanced at the knife and said in a teasing voice, “You reckon you can put the weapon down? I come in peace.”
Her heartbeat slowed, though not to its usual pace. The handsomest man she’d ever laid eyes on had just entered her kitchen. She set the knife down on the counter next to the pie and caught a glimpse of herself in the window’s reflection. Her spirits sank. This was not how she wanted to meet Deputy Gray—with humidified hair, a smudge of flour on her brow, and bright red cheeks shining with perspiration.
In contrast, he was well put together, with newfangled denims and a white pullover shirt with the top two buttons undone. A metal star was pinned to his chest, looking as buffed as his shiny boots. He fiddled with the Stetson in his hand and said in a friendly voice, “I’ve had at least three people mention Mary’s Restaurant and the food served here. I’m new in town, and I wanted to introduce myself to the owner and give my compliments to the chef. The chicken was delicious.”
“I’m not the owner. My parents are,” she responded shortly. “They left me in charge while they start another restaurant in Haverton.”
He looked around the kitchen. “Must be a lot of work to feed all those people.”
“I’m not afraid of work,” she answered, for lack of a better response. She knew she was sounding quite short with him, which wasn’t fair since he was making an attempt to be friendly, but she couldn’t seem to shake the feeling of being vaguely irritated that he had chosen this moment to make her acquaintance. Couldn’t he tell that she was busy? And why did he have to stand there looking so good in those painted-on denims, while she looked like a pack mule after a day of hiking up a mountain?
He may have picked up on her mood. Placing his hat on his head, he said, “I better let you get back to work, Miss—”
“Appleton. But everyone calls me Mary.”
“Nice to meet you, Mary. I hope you’ll call me Ben.”
Her tongue couldn’t form a polite response before he waved and walked out the door, leaving Mary with her mind racing, feeling even hotter than before he’d arrived. She felt flustered and disappointed with herself. It was like she’d forgotten how to be coy and attractive in the very moment it mattered most. Heck, she’d forgotten even how to be polite. No doubt he’d left thinking she was the most contrary woman in Thorndale.