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Bent Over A Barrel Bundle: Western Cowboy Romance (Full Length Novels), Page 2

Lolita London

Chapter 2

  “Put your back into it boy and make an effort,” James Addison yelled.

  Tom grimaced at the irritating sound of his father’s voice as he stuck the pitchfork in the dirty straw on the floor of the stable and lifted it up to throw it out of the stall. Cleaning them wasn’t particularly a job he enjoyed doing at any time if he was honest, but on this day he hated it more than ever.

  “I am putting my back into it,” he protested when he stopped to wipe the sweat from his forehead. “I just thought today of all days you might give me a chance to go in to town.”

  “To do what?” James went on.

  Tom shook his head in frustration. He knew his father was a good man at heart, but the older man’s insensitive nature infuriated him on occasions. As far as James Addison was concerned the farm came first above everything else and his expectation was that everyone else should think the same way. That made him a workaholic and he expected his nineteen year son to be the same.

  “Don’t you remember who is arriving today?” Tom said.

  “Of course I do,” his father replied. “But that’s not something for you to concern yourself with.”

  The incredulous expression spread over Tom’s face and he almost threw the pitchfork on the ground.

  “So let me get this straight,” he said. “It was your idea to go through a mail order bride agency to find me a suitable wife and on the very day she arrives, you tell me it’s not something I should concern myself with.”

  “Look,” his father went on in an annoyed voice. “The first job of a man in life is to be a good provider for his wife and family. That’s what you need to worry about. The amount of hours needed for the straightforward day to day running of this place means that every one of them is important and we are also at the stage of the year where we need to successfully get in the harvest then get the farm ready to survive the harsh winter months. That’s what your mind should be on first and foremost. Once that is completed you can start thinking about meeting the girl from the agency and we will get around to arranging for a wedding.”

  “So that’s your fatherly advice to me is it,” Tom said and almost laughed out loud. “I should basically ignore the woman invited here to be my wife and concentrate all my efforts on the farm for the next few weeks or however long it will take to get the work done. What way is that to treat anyone? It’s the kind of attitude that got you where you are today.”

  “What do you mean by that?” James demanded as he stopped the work he was doing to stare at his son.

  “Oh…, nothing,” Tom replied and stuck the pitchfork aggressively in the straw as he ignored the question and continued to clear out the stalls.

  What he did mean was that his father’s commitment to the land seemed to come at the expense of everything else in life. That meant his wife and children were second in line on far too many occasions and it was something that Tom could never understand. He’d grown up watching the unhappiness of his mother, Jenny, grow deeper over the years.

  He knew his father loved her in his own way, but the older man’s way of showing it was to be a good provider. That was the be all and end all of being a man as far as James Addison was concerned. Outward displays of affection weren’t something he deemed necessary in a marriage and it was all too obvious in the way he treated his wife. It certainly wasn’t the way that Tom wanted to or intended to live his life.

  The news of his uncle’s death saddened him when he heard about it, but in truth he didn’t really know his father’s brother all that well. It didn’t come as a surprise to him, however, when the farm in Oakford was left to them. The stable they were working in was small, with just enough space to accommodate the two horses that were used to pull the wagon they owned. The rest of the place comprised a few acres of land for growing crops and an area of pasture where the livestock lived. This included a few cattle and pigs that would provide them with milk and meat. The overall size was designed to provide enough food to sustain a single family.

  The place they’d lived and worked previously was rented land, so there was never any question that his father was going to move the family. Tom’s hope was that he wouldn’t have to go and initially he asked if he could stay with one of his older, married sister. He was the youngest child in the family and the only one still living with his parents. The answer to his request was no, which disappointed him for a number of reasons.

  Not least of these was the 40 year old widow that lived in the next farmstead to their original place. She was the woman that taught him all about the opposite sex and she was more than happy to pass on her experience to a muscular, virile young neighbor like Tom. It gave them both what they wanted and needed and that was more than simply making love, which in truth they only ever did on a couple of occasions.

  Tom was a willing student of her other kinks and she was all too willing to teach him about them. He came to enjoy them as much as she did, but he suspected the chances of finding someone like her in Oakford were slim to none. In fact the place was so small that he was of the opinion that he might never find anyone there that he wanted to be with.

  His reluctance to move was also spurred by the fact that staying with one of his sisters would get him away from his father and the mantra that being a good provider was the way to live life and be a man. James Addison believed that was right and tried to teach his son to live the same way, but Tom grew less and less interested in listening. He’d watched the relationship of his parents sour over the years and while they remained together, it wasn’t exactly as a happy couple from what he could see. That wasn’t the way he wanted to end up and it was only when he found out about the mail order bride agency that he gave up on his arguments about moving to Oakford. The idea that it might lead to him being paired with a gorgeous young wife convinced him that making the move was something he should do.

  Now that he was on the farm he was starting to revise that opinion. In the three weeks since they arrived he’d managed to go into town just once and that was only because he slipped away from his chores when he was left alone by his father. It was what he wanted to do right there and then. The longing to go and be there when the girl he might end up marrying arrived in town filled his mind. His father wasn’t giving him the chance though and he fumed in silence as he finished cleaning out the stable stalls then covered the floor with fresh straw.

  “Can I go now?” he said when he hung the pitchfork in its place on the wall.

  “Look,” his father replied. “I told you already that there is too much work needed around this place just now and I can’t do it all by myself. I’ve asked your mother to go and meet the girl that is arriving.”

  “And bring her back here?” Tom asked.

  “No,” his father replied in a decisive voice. “She’s a city girl that worked as a schoolmistress in Boston as far as we understand, so she’s not going to know anything about farm work. She would probably just get in the way during a busy period when we don’t really have the opportunity to teach her the ins and outs of what it takes to run this place.”

  “So, what does that mean?” Tom asked.

  “It means we concentrate all our efforts on the work that’s needed here on the farm,” his father replied. “She can stay in town until that is done and then we can turn our attention to what’s needed for you two to get married. That’s when she can move out here”

  “But that’s crazy,” Tom exclaimed. “You’ve basically arranged for her to come here through the agency and now that she’s about to arrive you are basically going to abandon her in a strange town.”

  “Oh don’t be so melodramatic,” his father snapped. “All we are asking is that she keeps out of the way for a few weeks until everything is sorted here. We are not abandoning her and it’s not like you’ll have any time for her anyway. We’ll be working from dawn until dusk. You don’t see me complaining that I can’t spend hours on end with your mother. She understands how things work.”

  Tom shook his head, bu
t could hear the determined tone in his father’s voice and knew that he would be wasting his breath arguing. That didn’t mean he planned to live by the rules that work always came first. He was stuck with his father for the day and couldn’t get away, but that wasn’t always going to be the case.

  “What do we need to do now?” he asked, without a great deal of enthusiasm.

  He listened as his father gave the instructions for the next chore, but his mind was already on what it was he wanted for himself. There was no doubt in his mind that if the opportunity presented itself in the days and weeks ahead, he intended to take full advantage to go after his own needs.

  Chapter 3

  “So much for my welcome,” Mary let out under her breath as she sat down at the one and only bench on the platform of Oakford station.

  As far as she could make out there was no welcome at all and she started to wonder what she should do when the train she arrived on got moving to leave the station. She looked around, but the few people that were milling about the place when she arrived were already gone and the platform appeared deserted. Letting out a sigh, she got to her feet and walked across to the exit to step out onto a dusty street to see if anyone was waiting for her there. It was only then that the sound of a voice caught her attention.

  “Are you Mary Gray?”

  The noise of an approaching wagon almost drowned out the voice, but when Mary turned to look she realized it was the woman bringing the beat-up vehicle to a stop in front of the station that asked the question.

  “Yes,” she replied.

  She watched as the older woman tied the reins in place on the seat then climbed down from the wagon.

  “I’m Jenny Addison,” the woman said and smiled.

  It was a genuine, if somewhat tired looking smile and Mary’s first impression was that it perfectly summed up the woman she was gazing at. Jenny’s sallow complexion and lank, blonde hair gave her a dispirited, rather downcast appearance. She wasn’t unattractive as such, but just looked as she was overworked and probably didn’t have a great deal of joy in her life. It wasn’t exactly a welcoming sight considering the older woman was the mother of the man she was there to meet and hopefully marry, but she returned the smile when she spoke.

  “It’s nice to meet you,” she said and held out her hand.

  For such a slight looking woman, Jenny’s grip was surprisingly strong.

  “I’m sorry I was late,” she apologized. “The work at the farm kept me longer than I anticipated and it meant I left later than intended.”

  “It’s not a problem,” Mary replied politely. “I just arrived at the station.”

  Her expectation was that they would get on the wagon and head off to the farm straight away, but Jenny cast her gaze down to the ground and shuffled her feet nervously as if she was reluctant to go on speaking. Mary remained silent and waited until the older woman’s gaze came back up.

  “Can we sit down?” Jenny said.

  Jenny couldn’t help taking the words as an ominous sign and her apprehension grew at what was about to be said. There was nothing she could do but agree with the request and she nodded her head.

  “Let’s just go in the station,” Jenny went on.

  They walked back inside and Mary found herself sitting on the bench she got up from only a few minutes before. She put her case down at her feet and waited. Again Jenny seemed unsure of how to go on and there was silence for a few seconds before she inhaled a deep breath as if she was getting ready to pass on some bad news.

  “I’m glad you’re here,” Jenny started. “And my son is really looking forward to meeting you.”

  They were encouraging words although Mary got the feeling there was a but coming along and her instincts proved correct after another few seconds of silence.

  “Unfortunately, you’ve come at a time of the year when things on the farm are extremely busy,” Jenny went on. “It’s harvesting season and once that is complete the men will need to work hard getting the place ready to cope with the colder months ahead.”

  Mary wasn’t quite sure how to respond and simply waited for the older woman to go on. When nothing more was said, however, there was no choice but to ask the question she was thinking about.

  “So, what does that actually mean for me?”

  “Well…” Jenny said and then hesitated as if she was searching for the right words. “My husband feels it would be best if you stay in town for the moment. Just until things settle down at the farm and there is a chance for us to make the arrangements for the marriage to our son.”

  “How long will that be?” Mary asked.

  Jenny stared down at the ground as she answered.

  “It will likely be a few weeks,” she said. “Probably no more than a month and a half.”

  It wasn’t what Mary wanted to hear and having the information sprung on her the minute she arrived made her wonder why they didn’t just ask her to come later in the year. Not that she particularly wanted to spend any more of her life in Boston, but it would have been better than what was now being asked of her. The question came out without her even thinking.

  “Can’t I help on the farm?”

  “Have you ever worked on one before?” Jenny asked.

  “Well…, no,” Mary conceded. “I’ve always lived in the city and my education allowed me to move straight into teaching when I finished studying, so that’s what I did.”

  “With no experience of working on a farm, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to help,” Jenny went on.

  “I’m a fast learner,” Mary said.

  “I’m sure you are,” Jenny replied. “But it’s a really busy period of the year and not particularly suited to teaching a novice what’s required in the running of a farm. My husband is of the mind that it would be better if you remained in town for the next few weeks.”

  Mary let out a sigh and lifted her gaze to the sky above. It was easy for the Addison family to tell her to stay in town until things settled down to a less busy routine on the farm, but it didn’t feel right to her. She’d used up around half of her savings just to buy the train ticket to get to Oakford and wasn’t sure the money in her pocket would last long if she needed to rent a room. She dropped her gaze back down and wondered what to do. It wasn’t as if going back to Boston was really an option for her and she knew she couldn’t face doing it.

  On the other hand it sounded as if staying in Oakford was going to bring its own set of problems by what she was being told. The life she hoped for when she got on the train definitely wasn’t what was on offer now that she was at her destination. At least it wasn’t what was being offered to her right there and then. If she wanted to find out if things would work out then she was going to have to wait.

  “Look,” Jenny said. “I know all this has probably come as something of a shock to you and I wish it was different. If you choose to stay, I’ll try to help you all I can and will strive to get you to the farm and together with my son as quickly as possible.”

  The words sounded genuine and Mary guessed that what was happening wasn’t Jenny’s idea. When her parents were alive it was her father who ruled the house and made the decisions, so she wasn’t exactly surprised that it was the same in other households. Knowing that didn’t do her much good in the situation she now found herself in, but she was going to have to find a way of dealing with it as best she could. That started with finding somewhere she could afford to stay.

  “Are there any places in town where I can get a room?” she asked.

  “How much money have you got?” Jenny asked.

  Mary let out a sigh.

  “Not much,” she answered. “It will need to be somewhere cheap.”

  She watched as the older woman put her hand in her pocket and brought out some coins.

  “Take this,” Jenny said.

  “Oh no Mrs. Addison,” she let out. “It wouldn’t be right for me to take money from you.”

  “Please,” Jenny replied. “I feel guilty at
you coming here and being asked to wait. It’s not much, but it will help you.”

  Mary tried to resist, but the money was placed in her hand and her fingers forced to curl around it. She looked down when she opened her hand up again to see it was probably not much more than a dollar.

  “Thanks,” she said.

  “Come on,” Jenny went on. “I’ll take you to a place I know.”

  Mary put the money in her pocket then reached down to pick up her case. She got to her feet and followed as they walked out of the exit and moved to the wagon parked in front of the station. She glanced around at her surroundings and the quiet of the place was something she suspected it would take her a while to get used to. There certainly wasn’t the hustle and bustle of a typical Boston street that was for sure.

  “Give me your case.”

  Mary turned at the sound of the voice to see Jenny already up on the wagon and reaching a hand down. She handed over the case and waited until it was placed in the space just behind the seat before accepting the help up. When she was in place on the seat, she watched as the reins were untied and the horses geed up to start walking, The pace was slow as they made their way along the empty street and she remained quiet as she contemplated the situation she was now in.