Claiming Catherine (Montana Maiden Series Book 1)

 

Claiming Catherine

Montana Maiden Series, Book 1

 

By

 

Vanessa Vale

 

 

©2014 by Blushing Books® and Vanessa Vale

 

 

All rights reserved.

 

No part of the book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

 

Published by Blushing Books®,

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The trademark Blushing Books®

is registered in the US Patent and Trademark Office.

 

Vale, Vanessa

Claiming Catherine: Montana Maiden Series, Book 1

 

eBook ISBN:
978-1-62750-581-9

Cover Design by ABCD Graphics & Design

 

This book is intended for
adults only
. Spanking and other sexual activities represented in this book are fantasies only, intended for adults. Nothing in this book should be interpreted as Blushing Books' or the author's advocating any non-consensual spanking activity or the spanking of minors.

 

 

Chapter One

 

Catherine

 

The proposition of being married to a stranger held mystery and allure the entire stagecoach ride—three days of rattling and rolling across the open prairie—just until the driver called the horses to a halt in front of the general store in Liberty, Montana. This was the end of the line, where my future husband would be waiting for me. My heart thumped so hard I couldn't imagine it not being noticeable to all, either by beating its way out of my chest or by the sound of its frantic beats. My palms dampened my white gloves and breathing was even more difficult within the confines of my tight corset. My future was beyond the wooden door of the stage. Once I stepped out, my life, I knew, would alter dramatically.

Herbert Beecham had wanted me as his wife, at least until he found me unbuttoning the very top of my blouse beneath my neck one day outside of church. It had been stifling and I was overcome from the heat and thick humidity. The ruffled edge of the high collar was claustrophobic and hot and tickled my chin. With that sole button undone, no one would notice a change, nor would any skin show. It only relieved the constriction about my neck so I didn't overheat and swoon at his feet. Instead of being concerned for my welfare, he'd labeled me a harlot in front of the remainder of the congregation mingling on the city sidewalk.

Did I have such low moral values that I wanted to expose my neck to strange men milling around? Was it my hope to lure these same men into my woman's trap as I had him? Mr. Beecham wouldn't be pulled from his soapbox once he began ranting about my wantonness, but he'd retracted his offer of marriage then and there. I'd been mortified, shamed and publicly humiliated. Even now, weeks later and hundreds of miles away, I was haunted by his words and wore my most severe, and modest, of dress.

Left without other prospects—no one would marry me after that public tirade—I had to consider farther afield, having become somewhat desperate. Work for a woman was unattainable without skills like sewing or teaching and without such, there would not be enough money to pay off my father's debt and survive. Thus, my presence in Montana, far from St. Louis, as a mail order bride. It was either the poorhouse or marrying a complete stranger in a strange land.

What did my husband look like? Was he appealing to the eye? Would he be pleasant or cruel? Would he consider me amoral and a slattern like Mr. Beecham had? When I'd accepted Mr. Jake Bridger's marriage by proxy, I'd envisioned a dime novel cowboy, all virile male and bulging muscle. He'd be able to rope a steer, ride a horse and pleasure a woman with mastery and skill. This last was a phrase I'd learned from such a novel and had no real idea what it meant, although it was a dream that kept me company on the long, arduous trek from St. Louis. Perhaps I was amoral and wanton as I'd been viciously painted.

The driver helped me down from the coach as I shielded my eyes from the bright sun. The air was warm, yet refreshing after the confines of my uncomfortable seat. There had been no reprieve since breakfast. Summers in Montana seemed palatable and pleasant, an appealing change to the sweltering streets of a big city.

“Miss Langton?” a deep voice called out.

I looked up, but couldn't see the man with the voice, as the sun was directly behind him. Stepping closer, he broke free of the glare and stood before me, close enough that I had to tilt my head back to look him in the eye. Oh lord, he was a big man!

As he pulled his hat off, I was able to see he had piercing dark eyes, and equally dark hair that was long at the nape and slightly curled. It was thick and wayward, making my fingers itch to feel how soft it was and to tame it. His jaw was square with dark whiskers, in need of a shave. His lips were full and one corner quirked up in a smile.

This was my husband? He was all the book described and even more. My eyes traveled from his face and over his body. Broad shoulders were covered in a blue cotton shirt, soft from wear and the sun, the sleeves rolled up to expose formidable forearms, all sinewy muscle and tanned skin. His hands were large, and I contemplated what they would feel like against my flesh. I swallowed deeply.

Sweat dotted my brow and I had no doubt the sun wasn't the only culprit. My interest in this man was piqued in a way no other man had done before and he'd only said my name.

“I assume the way you're looking me over that you are indeed Miss Langton,” he prompted, amusement lacing his words.

Oh! I'd been ogling him as if a prized bull. Mortified, I felt my cheeks heat.

“Yes. I'm...so sorry. You must be Mr. Bridger.”

He nodded. “Ma'am. Jake Bridger. I trust that your journey was not too arduous?”

I could only shake my head as the knowledge that I was bound to this man,
this man,
until death parted us.

“I'm relieved to hear that.” He leaned in close, his eyes darted from mine, to my lips, then back. “You are lovelier than I could have imagined,” he whispered.

My cheeks flamed even hotter, but a thrill ran through me at his pleased words.

“Are you hungry?”

My stomach was filled with butterflies; I couldn't eat a thing. Just the sight of the man made me tongue-tied and flustered. He was my husband! He was so appealing to the eye that it was almost unbelievable. I'd never seen a man quite so handsome before. They grew them well in Montana - a different breed of man entirely.

Mr. Beecham was overweight and balding, with a double chin and pasty complexion. Perhaps my low moral standards had me fortuitously averting a fate that would have been quite unappealing and depressingly lifelong.

“No, thank you,” I murmured.

“If it's all right with you, I'd like to stop at the church to make our marriage even more official,” he said, proffering his arm.

I took it absently. We
were
legally married, the ceremony taking place in a sterile office in St. Louis, the mail order bride company's clerk acting as Jake Bridger's proxy. It was a typical scenario, wedding in this fashion prior to cross-country travel. It kept both bride and groom from changing their minds at moments just like this one. Why would I back out? The man was utterly appealing to every one of my feminine senses. I was thrilled to be married to him. The very idea he wanted to consecrate the union in a church only endeared me to him all the more.

“We have a ride ahead of us back to the ranch and we won't be returning to town this week, thus the desire for immediacy,” he added as we walked. “You'll be in my bed tonight and I thought you might value the minister's blessing.”

I gulped at the very idea of sharing a bed with this man. The notion was not at all unpleasant. Nonetheless, I was nervous and apprehensive at the daunting, and unfamiliar activity. Would he find me lacking as Mr. Beecham had? And with him, I'd been fully clothed. “Do you think...do you think we can hold off on, um, marital relations until we know each other a little better?"

He looked down at me, and his mouth quirked up. "You mean fucking?"

I darted a glance left and right to see who may have overheard our frank conversation. "Well...yes."

He thought for a moment. "All right. I won't fuck you until you are ready. Is that amenable?"

Relief coursed through me and I smiled. "Yes, thank you."

"You will still be in my bed." He held up a hand as I opened my mouth to speak. "No fucking, but you are my wife and my wife is in my bed."

It was a fair compromise and I should consider it very accommodating. "All...all right.”

We walked through the small town in silence, glad for the time to absorb my new surroundings. A mercantile, a saloon and several other shops flanked the wide, dirt thoroughfare. A number of small clapboard houses dotted the prairie in the distance. We passed the livery at the edge of town to walk up a small rise to the church, it's steeple no doubt seen for miles from the vast openness all around us. Mr. Bridger tipped his hat to those we passed; he seemed familiar with everyone we encountered.

It was beautiful here. Tall grass, green and yellow, waved in the gentle breeze. Purple mountains were hazy in the distance, but I couldn't get over the feel of freedom. The claustrophobic confines of city life were long gone and would not be missed. Neither would the cruel Mr. Beecham, although he seemed to linger in my thoughts and impacted how I perceived myself. It had been my hope that each mile that had passed I would forget him, but the self doubts he'd raised still lingered. Would Mr. Bridger consider me equally unworthy?

My husband allowed me my thoughts as we walked to the church, for he seemed to have a calm and sensible demeanor. Horses were tied up at a rail in front of the whitewashed building. Mr. Bridger held the door as I entered the cool space. Inside, there was the minister—obvious from his black shirt and white collar—a woman of similar age I assumed his wife, and two other men, equally broad, equally tall, and equally as devastatingly attractive as my husband.

There was no question the three men were brothers. Their hair varied from dark brown to blond, but they all had gazes that pierced right through me, a no-nonsense demeanor, and an air of protectiveness that made me feel at ease and reassured.

Mr. Bridger's hand was at my lower back, and tingles from the simple touch shot through me like a bullet from a rifle, as he led me down the short aisle. Our footfall was loud on the floorboards.

“Mrs. Abernathy, Reverend Abernathy, this is Miss Langton, soon to be Mrs. Bridger in the eyes of God.”

The couple shared their greetings and a kind smile.

“These are my brothers, Sam and Cole.”

Both men looked at me in a way that made the hairs on the nape of my neck rise. It was as if I was in their sights as prey. Their gazes weren’t threatening, but purely dominant. They both came forward and shook my hand, each of theirs large as a dinner plate, engulfing mine. Licks of flame warmed my body in places I wasn't supposed to mention.

Heat once again flooded my cheeks—a constant state, it seemed, shame washing over me as I reacted not only to my betrothed, but to his brothers as well. Maybe something really was wrong with me!

“I understand you were wed via proxy, but this will make you all feel as if it is real. Let's make it official in the eyes of God as well, shall we?” Reverend Abernathy asked.

I looked up at my husband, who stood at my side. He nodded to the minister before taking my hand in his. "You may remove your gloves. They are not worn here in Montana."

I did as he bid and removed them as the other two men moved to stand beside their brother, bearing witness.

The ceremony was short, our “I Do's” simple. Mr. Bridger—I couldn't think of him yet as Jake—didn't slip a ring on my finger, but did kiss me at the completion. A simple, chaste affair, however it did confirm his lips were warm and soft and that I wanted more.

As I opened my eyes after this first kiss, all three male faces had hooded gazes of dark desire.

"Do you plan on corking her here?" the reverend asked.

Cork? Was it some Montana tradition? A colloquialism? I'd never heard of it and I looked to Mr. Bridger.

He shook his head and gave me a quick glance. I'm sure he could see the confusion on my face, but didn't elaborate. "She's not from here, nor familiar with our ways. I think it would be better if I did it at home myself."

Reverend Abernathy nodded his understanding, yet raised a brow as he spoke. "The next service you attend, I'm sure we will be able to judge for ourselves that this task has been accomplished."

It was obvious even to me – someone completely unaware of the topic of their discussion - that the minister was not asking Mr. Bridger a question, but instead stating fact.

"Of course," Mr. Bridger responded.

Once the nuptials were completed, my husband bade quick farewell to the couple and led me from the church as quickly as we arrived, his brothers following. The sun warmed my skin and I wanted to savor the moment of my wedding as it only happened once in a woman's life. I felt rushed through this moment, however I could appreciate the need to return to the ranch with daylight holding, if the ride was as far as I imagined. Life was different in Montana, I knew, and I would need to accustom myself to the change.

“We will ride together,” Mr. Bridger told me as we approached the horses. Sam and Cole escorted us, a man on each side as well as behind me. I felt sheltered, surrounded by such large and commanding men.

My husband undid the lead of one horse, swung up into the saddle and held his hand down to me. I glanced at my new brothers-in-law, who both gave quick nods. I took the proffered hand and was pulled easily up onto my husbands lap, sitting with my legs and skirts off one side. I could feel his strong, muscular thighs beneath my bottom, his arms encircling me. My head rested beneath his chin and could feel his heart beating against my back, could smell his clean scent of leather, horse and pure male essence.

I had never been this close to a man before, certainly never sitting upon one. His broad hand held me about the waist, his thumb brushing the underside of my breast. Even through the heavy confines of my corset could I feel the searing heat at the contact. I sucked in a breath at the action, but knew he was now legally able to take liberties with me in any manner he chose. The fact that I longed for the kind of things I read about it the dime novel made Mr. Beecham's harsh words ring true.

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