Authors: Marla Monroe
Men of the Border Lands 4
Their Bartered Bride
Joel and Jonathan barter for Leigh to keep her out of a brothel. Can Leigh adjust to having two husbands? Can Joel get past the fact that he compromised his ideals by buying a wife?
Leigh isn’t so sure about the two of them since they bought her.
When wolves begin to threaten their herd, they must band together with other families to hunt them down before someone gets hurt. But are they too late to protect their families? When Leigh is hurt, Joel is beside himself and realizes that no matter what his principles are, he did the right thing by her.
Futuristic, Ménage a Trois/Quatre, Western/Cowboys
THEIR BARTERED BRIDE
Men of the Border Lands 4
Siren Publishing, Inc.
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A SIREN PUBLISHING BOOK
IMPRINT: Ménage Everlasting
THEIR BARTERED BRIDE
Copyright © 2012 by Marla Monroe
E-book ISBN: 1-61926-103-0
First E-book Publication: January 2012
Cover design by Les Byerley
All art and logo copyright © 2012 by Siren Publishing, Inc.
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Their Bartered Bride
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Men of the Border Lands 4
Copyright © 2012
Joel Atwater and his brother, Jonathan, pulled into Barter Town at nearly noon in need of supplies and gas. Joel stepped out of the truck as Jonathan climbed down from the other side. They grabbed their cured meat out of the back of the truck and went in search of fresh produce. Even though they had a small garden plot at home, they needed potatoes and fruit.
They wandered around until they found someone with lots of potatoes and obviously not selling them before they started to barter. Twenty minutes later, they came away with forty pounds of the vegetable and still had plenty of meat left to barter for the more expensive fruit.
Once they had all they needed, they stopped by the liquor store and traded the remainder of their meat for two bottles of whiskey. They weren’t drunks, but enjoyed the occasional sip now and again after a long day out tending to the ranch.
As they passed the brothels, women with collars hooked to chains stood outside the buildings, totally naked despite the slight chill in the air. Joel hated seeing them like that, but there was nothing he or his brother could do. Neither man visited the establishments. No way were they going to support the sordid businesses. By the time they had made it back to the truck, they were tired and antsy to get out of the nasty town.
As they loaded up their supplies, a man walked by pulling a woman by a rope tied around her neck.
“Come on, Leigh. I’m sick of your tricks. I’m going to get good credits bartering you off to the brothel.”
“I’d rather die than go there. You’re going to have to pull me by my neck. No doubt by the time you get me there, you’ll be dragging a dead body.”
The curvaceous redhead’s husky voice stirred things inside of Joel that he had thought long dormant.
“Fine. It’s nothing more than you deserve, you ungrateful bitch.”
“I’m not whoring for you and all your friends.”
With that, the man jerked the rope and pulled her off-balance so that she fell to the ground. Then he began dragging her by the rope around her neck.
The bastard really was going to choke her to death doing that. Before Joel knew what he was doing, he had sprinted up to the stranger and grabbed his arm. Jonathan was at the man’s other side at the same time.
“What in the hell do you think you’re doing?” the man demanded, shaking loose of Joel’s hand.
“Stopping you from killing that woman. She’s not going to make it if you pull her like that.”
“Right now, I don’t rightly give a damn.” He started to continue across the parking lot dragging the woman, but Jonathan stepped in front of him.
Joel smothered a grin. Jonathan was a few inches taller than he was, and at six-four, Joel wasn’t short.
“I don’t think so. What are you planning to do with her?” Jonathan asked.
“Sell her to the first brothel I come to. She’s a bitch, and she’s nothing but trouble.”
Before he knew what he was going to do, Joel grabbed one of their bottles of whiskey, having smelled the liquor on the man’s breath.
“I’ll trade you this for the woman.”
“Joel?” Jonathan said in a questioning voice.
“The entire bottle of whiskey?”
“He’d sell his own mother for that,” Leigh whispered in a raspy voice now strained from the tight rope around her neck. She’d gotten to her knees and was attempting to loosen the rope.
“Jonathan.” Joel nodded over toward the woman, indicating he should help her.
“Yes, an even swap. Her for the whiskey.”
The man licked his lips and thought long and hard about it. Then he nodded and reached for the whiskey. Joel held it out of reach.
“Hand over the paperwork first.” He was sure the man had some by the bulge in his shirt pocket.
The man grumbled, but pulled out the papers and shoved them at Joel.
“Not so fast. Sign her over to us on the bill of sale on the back.”
When the man hesitated, Joel waggled the bottle of whiskey in front of him. This spurred the man on. He produced a pen and walked over to their truck to sign over the woman as sold for a bottle of whiskey. Joel couldn’t believe it. He had just bought a woman. Something he and his brother had always been against, but they couldn’t have watched the man drag her across the parking lot.
“Here,” the stranger said, handing over the paperwork and the rope. “Now give me the whiskey.”
Joel handed over the bottle and was glad he hadn’t offered both bottles. He checked to make sure the man had indeed signed her over as sold. He filled in his and his brother’s names, then folded up the forms and stuck them in his front pocket. He turned to find Jonathan and the woman working at the knots in the rope.
“It’s just choking her more, Joel.” Jonathan sighed.
“Cut it off.”
“You’ll cut me,” the woman squeaked out.
Joel walked up and pulled out his knife. “Lean over so I can get to the rope at the back of your neck.”
He winced at the raw skin at her neck and carefully slid the knife between her neck and the rope. He quickly cut the rope. When it fell off, she began to cough.
“Get her some water, Jonathan.” Joel squatted next to her, rubbing her back as she gagged.
Jonathan hurried back with a bottle of water. She grabbed it as soon as he had the cap off and drank in long swallows. Then she stopped and hung her head.
“Guess I’ve traded one nightmare for another. But thanks for keeping him from killing me, or worse, trading me to a brothel. I’d rather have been dead than work in one of those.”
“Listen, Leigh. That is your name, right?” Joel asked.
“Yes, Leigh McGowen.” Her voice was still raspy, and probably would be for a while.
“I’d let you go on your own way, but the fact of the matter is, you’re going to be in danger of being caught by someone again if we do. I know you don’t know us from Adam’s house cat, but we’re good men. I’m Joel and this is my brother, Jonathan.”
“I figured you were brothers since you look almost like twins.” Leigh sighed. “I don’t have a choice. You bought me and have my papers. I try and run, and they’ll just come looking for me, anyway.”
Jonathan reached down and held out his hand. She looked up at them and took Jonathan’s hand, letting him draw her to her feet. She wobbled a bit and Jonathan immediately enfolded her in his arms.
“Careful. Don’t fall,” he said.
“Your neck is a mess, Leigh. We need to see to it, then get you home before that bastard decides to come back.” Joel walked over to the truck and opened the back door.
He pulled out a tin box that said
on it and began to rummage around in it. He returned from the truck with some gauze and peroxide and poured some on the cloth. When he reached out to clean her neck, she winced and pulled back into Jonathan’s arms.
“Easy, there. He’s not going to hurt you. Let him clean those raw areas so they don’t get infected.” Jonathan held her still as Joel patted the peroxide-soaked gauze against the worst places on her neck.
Joel knew the peroxide didn’t hurt, but just touching her raw spots with the gauze was bound to. He was as gentle as he could be. Finally, he stopped and delved back into the kit for some antibiotic salve. He gently dabbed the salve on her neck, then put away the first-aid kit.
“Okay, let’s head out of this hellhole,” Joel said and climbed up into the cab of the truck.
* * * *
Jonathan walked the woman around to the other side. When she would have climbed in the back, he ushered her up front.
“We’ve got stuff packed back there. You can ride up front with us. There’s plenty of room.” He helped her up into the front of the truck, then climbed in behind her.
They all buckled their seat belts and Joel pulled out of the parking lot, leaving Barter Town behind them.
“What are we going to do about clothes for her?” Jonathan asked.
Joel looked her over. “She looks to be about the same size as whoever used to live in our house before us. She can wear that stuff until we have time to try Sky Line for more clothes.”
“Sounds like a good idea. I think you’re right. She looks to be about that size.” Jonathan stretched his arm out along the back of the seat behind her.
He was a big man, and even though the truck was a comfortable size for him, he felt a little uncomfortable with her there between him and his brother. He didn’t want to crowd her, so he tried to hug the door to give her breathing room. No doubt she was feeling a bit hemmed in and overwhelmed right about then.
He couldn’t help but admire her rounded body. She had curves that would entice a priest to lascivious thoughts. Her tangled red hair reached between her shoulder blades and she had an ass made for fucking. He would bet anything her breasts would be more than a handful, and that was saying something, because he had large hands to fit the rest of his large body.
He and his brother were big men, but he was a little taller than Joel. It would take a large woman to handle both of them, and she looked to fit the bill. Of course, she wasn’t really theirs. They’d bartered for her. That wasn’t exactly fair, and sure didn’t lead to a future relationship of any kind. But maybe, if she were willing, they could take things slow and learn to care about each other.
“How did you end up with that man?” Joel asked her.
“He’s my no-account stepfather,” she managed to say in a scratchy voice.
“How long had he had you tied like that?”
“I’m not sure. Time sort of warps when you’re a prisoner. Probably about six months.”
“Well, you’re not a prisoner with us,” Jonathan assured her. “You should stay with us, though, so you’ll be safe.”
“Basically, I’m just trading one cage for another. Even you have to admit to that,” she said in a bitter voice.
Joel sighed. “The difference is, we’re not going to force ourselves on you. Just help around the house and the garden, and we’ll take care of you. Deal?”
Jonathan held his breath at what her answer would be. She seemed to think it over, then smiled tentatively.