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

       Kate Whitsby / History & Fiction / Romance & Love / Western
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Something in Rose’s tone struck Violet as odd, and she glanced over her shoulder at her youngest sister. Instead of facing forward, listening to their conversation with keen attention, Rose stared off at the countryside outside the buggy. The same dreamy expression haunted her eyes.
Violet shuddered. She expected Rose to eavesdrop on their conversation and inform Cornell about their complaints. That would be just like Rose to play both sides of the fence. Instead, Rose gazed at the scenery with her head in the clouds, seeing nothing in front of her. Didn’t she care enough to listen to her sisters’ conversation? Didn’t she care enough about the future of the ranch to form an opinion about its management?
Violet barely discussed the merits of mail-order husbands with Rose to win her consent to the plan. Rose barely listened to her arguments at all. She flatly agreed to everything Violet suggested, right down to the methods they should employ to deal with Cornell. Her compliance irked Violet more than anything. She preferred Iris’s rebelliousness to Rose’s bland, empty submission.
Except it wasn’t submission, was it? Rose might say ‘yes’ to everything, but she kept her true feelings and opinions secret. The comforting thing about Iris was, no matter how forcefully she disagreed with you, you always knew exactly where she stood and what she thought. She never minced her words keeping anything to herself. When you dealt with Iris, you got one hundred percent Iris or nothing at all. Violet never doubted Iris for a minute.
No matter what Rose said, even when she agreed with you, you always doubted her. You never knew what she thought or felt or heard or believed because regardless of what she said, she always kept something back. She smiled sweetly, and agreed to everything anyone asked of her gently and easily, so you hated yourself for doubting her. You couldn’t question her. She only smiled more sweetly than ever and fill your head full of butterflies and bunny rabbits.
Like now, for instance. Rose said she didn’t ask Jacob Hamilton his age, but Violet couldn’t question her about anything else she knew about her prospective groom. Rose would only find a polite way of making Violet feel guilty for prying into her personal business.
Violet went back to her solid, reassuring conversation with Iris. “Anyway, we’ll put all three of them in the Fort House. That will keep them out of Cornell’s hair until Friday. The less the three of them have to do with him, the better.”
“And what comes after Friday?” Iris asked.
Violet started. “What do you mean?”
“Where will all of us live after the wedding on Friday?” Iris asked. “Don’t tell me all three of our couples will live in the main house. I, for one, won’t think of it. Once I’m married, I’m going to live somewhere else.”
“Where will you go?” Violet asked.
“I don’t know,” Iris replied. “But I won’t live with the rest of you in the main house, that’s for certain. I’ve lived with you and Rose all my life, and once I get married, I’m living somewhere else.”
“But where?” Violet asked.
“I don’t know,” Iris repeated. “Maybe Mick and I can go live in the Fort House. If you and Chuck and Rose and Jacob stay in the main house together, the Fort House will be free.”
Violet nearly jumped out of her skin when Rose chimed in from the back seat. “I don’t want to live with anyone else in the main house, either.” So she was listening. A chill raced down Violet’s back. What else had Rose heard that she never let on about?
“Well, that isn’t going to work, is it?” Violet complained. “There aren’t three separate houses. We can’t all just go off and live alone with our new husbands.”
“I am,” Iris declared. “I don’t care what anyone says. We’re living alone. Cornell is around the main house all day, every day. And whichever of you stays there will be there, too. I need somewhere I can go to get away from the main house, and once we’re married, Mick and I will want privacy. We’ll take the Fort House. You and Rose can fight over the main house.”
“There’s the Bird House,” Rose put in. “But Cornell lives there.”
“But once we get married,” Iris pointed out, “Cornell won’t be our guardian and our executor anymore. Our fortunes will pass to our husbands. Maybe Cornell won’t live at the Bird House anymore.”
“I can’t believe this!” Violet gasped. “You can’t be thinking of turning Cornell out, not after he’s lived at the Bird House and shared our lives all these years.”
“Everything has to come to an end,” Rose pointed out. “If he isn’t our guardian and our executor anymore, he has no business at the ranch or in the Bird House. His duty is discharged.”
“Discharged!” Violet repeated. “You can’t be serious! He’s like a parent to us.”
“He might be like a parent to you,” Iris shot back. “But to me, he’s an obstacle. We’re getting rid of that obstacle by getting married. Once all three of us are married and our husbands are running the ranch, Cornell is better off somewhere else. He can only cause trouble around the ranch.”
“I can’t believe you would be so heartless, Iris,” Violet exclaimed.
“And I can’t believe,” Iris replied. “That Cornell would let the ranch—which, by the way, is our inheritance, and not his property at all, although he certainly acts like it is his—that he would let it fall into ruin through his own stubborn idiocy. If we have to get mail-order husbands to save the ranch from his mismanagement, then he should be sent packing with extreme prejudice.”
Violet was just about to protest again when Rose piped up. “And then Jacob and I could live at the Bird House. Violet, you and Chuck can live in the main house.”
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