Violet's Mail Order Husband (Montana Brides #1)

       Kate Whitsby / History & Fiction / Romance & Love / Western
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Mick raised an eyebrow when Iris took the reins. “Would you like one of us to drive you home?”
“I can drive.” Iris adjusted the reins in her hands. Then she cracked a smile. “Who do you think drove here to get you?”
“I just thought you might like one of us to drive,” Mick muttered.
“Besides,” Iris went on. “If you drive, Jake will have to ride, and I wouldn’t want to disturb the lovebirds.”
“I guess not.” Mick wheeled his horse away. Iris clucked to the horses, and the buggy rolled up the street and out of Butte.
Chuck and Mick rode alongside.
“You mentioned you have an extra house you plan to put us in,” Chuck began. “Isn’t anyone living in it?”
“We call it the Fort House,” Violet told him. “It belonged to my father’s brother. They built the ranch when they were young, and my uncle built the house when he married. But his wife died soon after, and my uncle abandoned the house. We’ve used it as a guest house ever since.”
“So the three of us will stay there when we get to the ranch,” Mick asked. “Where will we live after we get married?”
“Funny you should ask,” Violet answered. “We were just discussing that very topic on the way down to Butte. You see, the ranch has three houses, the Fort House, the main house, where we live now, and what we call the Bird House, which is another small guest cottage.”
“That sounds perfect,” Chuck replied. “So we can each have our own house.”
Violet flushed. “It would be. There’s only one problem. Our guardian, the executor of our estate, lives in the Bird House at present.”
“You mentioned him in your letter,” Chuck told her. “Pollard, I think you said his name was.”
“That’s right,” Violet replied. “Cornell Pollard. And he’s not just our guardian and our executor, he’s our great uncle on my father’s side, so he’s family. He’s lived in the Bird House ever since our parents died and he became our guardian.”
“But after you get married,” Chuck pointed out. “He won’t be your guardian anymore. Then what will happen?”
“That’s just what we were discussing,” Violet replied.
“I think,” Iris put in. “That Cornell should find another place to live. If he isn’t acting as our guardian and executor anymore, we won’t have any use for him around the ranch anymore. He’ll only get in the way.”
“That sounds about right to me,” Mick added.
“I can’t believe you would be so unkind to a man who’s dedicated so many years to our well-being,” Violet exclaimed. “We can’t just turn him out into the street like an unwanted dog. He’s earned the right to a comfortable home.”
“If you ask me,” Iris declared. “I think he’s earned the right to be turned out on account of the way he’s run the ranch into the ground these last couple of years.” She turned to Mick, who rode at her side. “You’ll be shocked when you see the state of the place. We’ve been running bare bones for years, and the place is on the ragged edge of collapse. And all because he wouldn’t listen to me when I told him something had to be done about it.”
“You told him?” Mick’s eyebrows went up again.
The color mounted into Iris’s cheeks, and she brought her eyes back to her driving. “That’s right. You might think it’s a little out of the ordinary for a woman to take an interest in the workings of a cattle ranch but it’s our legacy. Do you understand? Once I realized how desperate the situation was, I had no choice but to get involved, to salvage it in any way I could.”
“I understand,” Mick replied.
“You’ll see when you get there,” Iris continued. “You’ll see why I had to do something—anything. And everything I’ve tried to do, Cornell has worked against me. I almost think he’s gone out of his way to thwart me, just to drive the ranch into the ground.”
“But why would he do that?” Violet broke in. “He has no reason to do it. He has financial control of the whole enterprise. It’s to his advantage to make it a thriving concern.”
“Not if we get married, he doesn’t,” Iris shot back. “He knew all along that, one day, we would grow up and control of the ranch would pass out of his hands. Once that happened, he no longer had any reason to make the ranch work.”
“But he has nothing to gain by ruining the ranch,” Violet protested.
“There is one thing he could gain by it,” Iris replied. “He could use the ranch to prevent us from getting married. He probably counted on the fact that, as women, we wouldn’t be able to run the ranch ourselves. He probably wanted to put himself in a position where we would have to rely on him to run our enterprise for us.”
“I can’t understand why you would hold such a vindictive opinion of Cornell,” Violet exclaimed.
Iris turned to Mick. “You see? We’ve had this conversation morning, noon, and night for months, and we never come to any agreement about it. But you’ll see when you get there. You’ll see why we had to get you men out there to help us. We’d lose our entire legacy if we didn’t.”

Chapter 10

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