Dominating Devney(Montana Maiden Series Book 3)(5)

By: Vanessa Vale

Jack had needed me. Not the way a man needed a wife. I was his protection, his barrier between the world at large and his secret. So he'd hidden me, kept me from town where I might spread the truth. I'd been safe, protected, with food in my belly, a roof over my head and no beatings. But protection was all he’d given me. He'd been busy with the ranch, with Barnaby, and he'd left me alone. Very much alone, until he pulled Sarah from school and then she, too, was kept home, for years.

When Barnaby died in the winter, Jack had died with him, perhaps not in body, but definitely in spirit. And when I found Jack, cold and stiff in his bed last week, I’d known it hadn't been from a medical ailment, but from a broken heart.

I expected freedom in my widowhood, not attempted rape. I'd expected to forge my own path, my own journey for my life, but even from the grave, Jack dictated what I could do. Because of his fortune, I would be sought after. The way Doctor Graham had spoken of my maidenhead, it too, was a precious commodity. How he'd known Jack's secret, I probably would never know. Regardless, these men were serious and a rifle would not sway them.

They were big, virile men, one of whom wanted me. Not my money, but me. I'd heard of the Bridgers from Jack's mumblings over dinner. They were good men who ran a good ranch. He'd had nothing bad to say, at least not within my hearing.

This Bridger, Sam, was tall. As we stood on the porch, I'd had to tilt my head back to look him in the eye even though I was very tall myself. His hair was fair, like wheat in the winter. His eyes were light green, like his shirt. He had a straight nose and a strong jaw that was covered in gold stubble. His shirt snugly fit his broad shoulders and a torso that tapered into a trim waist. He wore tan pants and leather boots; his legs were long as well muscled. Handsome was one word to describe him. Manly, bold and brooding were others. His gaze had been fixed on me since I first opened the door. Even with my naiveté about the stronger sex, I felt attraction. My heart sped when I looked at him. The way he watched me made my palms go damp. The room was overly warm and I believed, but was too afraid, to look down to see that my nipples had hardened. Why, at the old age of twenty-five, did I long to feel the rasp of his whiskers? I'd been out of contact with people too long to have such notions pop into my head.

He was everything Jack was not. Young, handsome, and from his heavy lidded gaze, attracted to me. He'd said outright he wanted my maidenhead. I had no doubt he'd rid me of it with ruthless, sensual precision. But attraction couldn't be enough. I'd learned that rash thinking on lifelong decisions did not bode well.

I cleared my throat. "Thank you, Mr. Bridger, for your surprising offer, but I decline."

There, I'd done it. I could continue to live my solitary existence in peace.

"Very well. Sheriff, grab my satchel, please."

The man stood and left the room, quickly returning with a black leather bag.

"You are both now under my protection until you choose to marry." Doc opened the bag and pulled out a leather belt. Or at least it looked like one. There was more than one strap and it fastened strangely. "You will wear a belt that protects your pussy and maidenhead from men with less than perfect scruples. As the town doctor, I am frequently called out, so I cannot supervise you constantly. This will allow for protection in my absence."

"I will not wear that," Sarah said, standing and moving slowly backward toward the door, pointing at the contraption the doctor held up. She flicked glances behind her as if ready to bolt like an untamed mustang.

"If Devney marries, you won't be obligated. Devney's husband will be your protector until you wed," Doctor Graham replied, adding this caveat.

I sat there, considering the doctor's words. If I married, then Sarah would not only be safe, she wouldn't have to be subjected to this ridiculous belt being held before us. It looked...odd. I could only imagine what it would feel like about my waist, between my legs. The idea was not appealing. And for how long? How long could we endure the rules of the doctor's protection? Or, I could save both Sarah and myself distress, embarrassment and discomfort.