Dominating Devney(Montana Maiden Series Book 3)By: Vanessa Vale
Montana Maiden Series, Book III
Old Man Jenkins was a wily bastard. Somewhere in his seventies, he'd spent his last years as a recluse, a veritable hermit on his ranch. It had vast amounts of acreage, greater than ten thousand if I had to venture a guess, which meant he had vast amounts of money. He had ranch hands to tend the cows, the horses and maintain the property. He had a wife, young and biddable. Devney. She had to be in order to survive the long winters isolated with an old geezer like him. He also had a daughter, Sarah, close in age to his wife. He'd pulled her from school when she was twelve, kept her on the ranch and no one had seen her since. It seemed he controlled everything with a ruthless hand, everything except death. Adam Graham, my good friend and town doctor, had said it was most likely his heart that finished him off.
I wouldn't have been surprised if it had been either the wife or daughter who'd done him in for keeping them so isolated, and Doc wouldn't have reported them to the sheriff, Ian McKenzie. Hell, McKenzie would have helped dig the hole to bury the man if he had.
It was the three of us who rode to the Jenkins ranch to bring Devney and Sarah back to civilization that was Liberty, Montana. Without neither a will nor son, Devney, as wife, inherited it all. She'd be hounded by leeches who wanted nothing more than her money and her land, once word spread. And her land held power. The Yellowstone River bisected a section, which gave her water rights that were crucial to survival in Montana. She'd have to marry. So would Sarah. They had no other choice.
We rode in silence, side by side across the open prairie south of Liberty. We'd left while the townsfolk were in church, hoping to return with the women before dark. The day was hot and the sun blazing. After an hour, we let the horses drink from a creek.
"There's only so much we can do to protect them once they get to town," Doc said, wiping a bandana against his neck. "They'll have to marry." It seemed Doc and I were thinking along the same lines.
"I have no idea what to expect." McKenzie took a swig of water from his canteen. "No one's seen Sarah for six, maybe seven years. Devney's only been to town once, and that was to see you." He looked to Doc.
"She got a sliver in her foot and it got infected. Could have killed her if she’d let it linger, but somehow she managed to ride in with the foreman who was collecting supplies. This was about six months after she married. I haven't seen her since. It's possible she's got a herd of kids by now, for all the news that comes from their ranch."
I hadn't met either woman and felt sympathy for both. I was all for protecting a woman that was legally mine. Hell, I was heading to a ranch to protect two women unknown to me. But keeping them so restricted took this stance too far. Jenkins might have protected them, but cut them off from the world as well.
"The land is hers. The water rights are hers. Once words spreads that Jenkins is dead, she'll be fair game," I said, thinking about the vultures soon to circle Devney Jenkins. "This country is rough on a woman. But without any contact like they've had to endure?" I just shook my head imagining two women wild and potentially a little insane.
I hadn't wanted to spend time with Old Man Jenkins whenever our paths crossed in the past. The idea of the things Devney Jenkins had been subjected to left a bad taste in my mouth. The rules for wives in Liberty were definitely strict, but I could only imagine what Devney had endured.
McKenzie bit off a piece of jerky. "What about the ranch hands? They have to know her worth. This might not be a good scene.”
Our mood was grim on the way to the main house. As we approached, we gave each other knowing looks. The place was pristine. The white paint was fresh, the fences in working order around the corral. The barn also had a fresh coat of paint and the roof appeared to be in good condition. Several horses were in the near pasture and cows dotted the hills beyond. All was quiet. Too quiet.