Chasing the Sunset - By Barbara Mack

Chasing the Sunset


Barbara Mack


St. Louis


February 1849

“You have been a very bad girl,” he said softly, almost lovingly, caressing her back with his soft, pudgy hand. He seemed to be nearly mesmerized by the tears in her dress that he had just put there himself with a belt, for his hand lingered over the exposed, welted flesh that showed through them and a slight smile quivered on his thin lips. He paid no attention to the cry of pain she stifled in the rumpled bedcovers as he touched her.

His mouth twisted up and she shut her eyes, quickly. She knew that the vile, gloating expression she so dreaded to see was in his eyes as he stared at her, face down on the bed. She could not afford to let him see her loathing or there would be no hope of reprieve. She steeled herself to let her face show no pain or fear, for he fed on those emotions and became stronger, and then the beating would last much longer.

She was as he always liked her in these moments; down on her knees before the bed, half-reclining across it, her face pressed hard into the coverlet, her hands gripping at the material with each stroke of the belt as she tried not to cry out. She knew that he felt immense power and pleasure as he studied her prostrate pose; she had seen it many, many times in his gloating eyes and his horrid face. She jumped involuntarily when his hand pressed hard against her abused back, and he laughed deep in his throat.

“Oh, Maggie, I love to look at you this way. I will always carry this picture in my mind, the way you look with my marks on your body.” His tone turned suddenly vicious, and he jerked her head up by her long brown hair and stared into her frightened green eyes. “You are mine, do you understand? Mine!” He shook her by the long tresses.

“Yes, David,” she cried in a tearful voice. “I am yours, I promise! I am only yours!”

He slapped her hard, and despite herself, tears spilled out of her glittering eyes to roll down her face. “You would be on the street if not for me. When your parents died, you had nowhere to go. I was their solicitor; no one knew that better than I. Your father was a fool, and now you are paying the price.” Maggie bit her lip to keep back the words that so wanted to come out. If she said one word in defense of her father, she knew that he would beat her viciously. This had all happened so many times before that Maggie knew the outcome of any action she might take. David could be inconsistent, but not in this; he could not stand to be contradicted and showed his displeasure in predictable ways.

“Who else would have taken you? There was no money left. You should be grateful that I took you in, that I was willing to marry such a wicked, wicked girl.” He reached down and grasped her shoulder in a cruel hand, shaking her hard. “Instead, you flaunt yourself at every man who comes near, twitch at every man who comes in contact with you, even the stableboy! I saw you flirt with him, I saw you smile and try to entice him!”

“No, David,” she cried. “He just carried the packages into the kitchen, and I said thank you! He is just a boy!” Her tone became cajoling. “I do not even know his name. He is not a man like you, David. He does not know anything, and I do not want him, David, only you.”

Underneath the sweet tone of her voice lay a note of desperation, and she knew that he had heard it when he laughed under his breath. He tipped her chin up and she tried hard to smile winsomely at him, but she could feel it wobble around the edges.

“A boy, eh?” He sounded amused. “He is a year older than you, my sweet young bride. But I see what you are doing, m’dear. You want to make up for your continual disobedience, do you not? Have I not taught you the consequences of your actions yet? Will you remember this punishment the next time that you are tempted by your base woman’s nature to flirt and beguile some poor, innocent boy?”

She nodded slowly and tried to hold the bright smile in place, glad at least that he