A Contract Bride’s Triple Surprise
Gillis MacDougal is heartbroken when he realizes his sweet Prudence, the woman he went east to find, is not going to live much past the birth of their baby.
The way his father set up the ranch, Gillis or one of his step-brothers, Ross and Nevin, must have a son from a legal marriage or the ranch will return to the possession of his older brothers in Texas. As they are brutes like his father, he’s determined that will not happen.
Prudence has written back and forth with her younger sister, Amelia, telling her of her life in the wilds of Montana. Gillis suggests that Amelia come out to raise Prudence’s baby, marrying one of his step-brothers to do so. They are half Highland Scot and half Bannock Indian, and take after their mother’s side of the family. Prudence is afraid of Ross, but finds Nevin fairly pleasant, and tells Amelia so in her letters.
Ross is known as the MacDougal Devil because it is well known he will go to the ends of the earth to kill anyone who harms those he cares about. Their deaths will be very slow, and exceedingly painful.
His eldest two half-brothers, Finan and Hugh, hated him so much his mother was worried they would kill him. From age five she sent him to spend summers with her people. He became a warrior and an expert with knives. He rarely has fewer than five on him, all hidden.
Amelia’s face and hand is badly scarred from running into a burning house to save some children. Her prospects are further complicated when her father dies and her cousin’s wife informs her she’ll be an unpaid servant for the rest of her life, in her own home.
Marrying kind Nevin is her only hope, but she will not go into it blindly. She demands a signed contract before setting out. When it arrives in the mail she is so eager that she scribbles her name to the marriage contract, sends it back, and begins packing.
Because of her scars she insists that she and her husband meet in the near dark for the first time.
But Gillis had second thoughts about Nevin marrying Amelia. Ross is the next oldest and, while some woman might choose to marry Nevin someday, none will marry Ross. He therefore puts Ross’s name on the marriage contract. When it comes back signed by Amelia Smathers, he informs Ross that he is to be a husband.
Ross is furious, but when the Laird of the MacDougal Clan speaks, he must obey. Knowing how afraid Prudence was of him, he is pleased that Amelia insists on meeting him in the dark. She will not know that she’s bedded Ross until it’s too late. Of course Ross hopes that Amelia will agree to also bed his younger brother and, eventually, Gillis. Amelia is delighted with her new husband and the marital duties she’d been taught were most unpleasant. Beth Elliott, Prudence’s good friend, explains a few other things about her marriage she was not aware of. The major one includes sharing her bed with her husband’s brothers.
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