Not the Marryin' Kind
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by Jac Eddins
Category: Erotica/Erotic Romance/Romance
Description: She Controlled the Valley, But Not Her Heart! A dozen men want to marry Nell Allistair, but she is smart enough to know it isn't her charm that intrigues them. With her husband's death she became the richest woman in the territory. Nell owns the saloon, the best ranch land in the valley and holds the mortgage on nearly every other property around. So far, Nell has held off her suitors by declaring she will not even consider remarriage until her year of mourning is up. Her time is running out.
eBook Publisher: Renaissance E Books/Sizzler, 2004
eBookwise Release Date: October 2004
10 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [156 KB]
Reading time: 104-146 min.
She sat on the long leather couch watching him across the room. His breathing was deep and even, sleeping off the effects of the drug she'd used on him earlier in the night.
She smiled slowly with the memory of that time, some hours before, when she'd set out for the club. She'd dressed perfectly, the short skirt of her dress tasteful, meant to draw attention to her long tanned legs. Her bodice, a corset actually, just peeked out from the hem and molded to her flat stomach and size 36 chest. Her long legs were enhanced by the almost stiletto style heel of her shoes, causing her muscles to ripple and flex with each step. She'd braided her long hair, the plait swinging almost with a mind of its own, well beneath her buttocks, drawing the warranted attention to the smooth round globes.
She walked into the club knowing full well that every eye drew to her as she did so, but she had eyes for only one. She'd watched him for weeks, each Friday and Saturday, dancing with various women to the modern pop/rock beats of the DJ.
His body gyrated, and sleek muscles rippled as he moved. His slightly long hair whipped this way and that as he contorted himself to the beat. His legs, nearly as long as hers, moved him about the floor with confidence and grace.
As she'd watched and planned, she'd known he would be perfect. Each night that she'd watched him he'd left with a different woman, but she knew he lived alone, having followed him one night, weeks before. The women never stayed more than a few hours and always left with a smile.
She'd taken the time to find out through her connections, exactly who he was from the license plate on his jeep. Dillon Ryder was his name she'd found out shortly after first having seen him at the club. He had his own shipping business, though he was only twenty-eight; he'd inherited it from his grandfather a few years before. The business was doing relatively well, though it could do better. She knew Dillon wasn't struggling financially, nor was the business, but he didn't dedicate his time to it as his grandfather had. It would soon fall to the wayside, unless it was bailed out--which is where she came in.
A soft smile touched her lips as she stared at him again. She rose off the couch and walked across the room to where he was bound tightly in a large chair. Her slim fingered hand reached out and caressed his bent head lightly and she smiled softly again.
She stood over him, her hand lightly caressing the back of his bent head, as she mused over how easy it had been to capture his attention at the club that night. Dressed as many of the other women who had shared his bed, she caught his attention almost immediately. It had been an easy, casual night of dancing for them both, with Dillon staying close to her all through the night, as she knew he would. He was an easy mark; she'd studied him extensively in the previous weeks. She knew how he liked his women to act, what body signals set him off, and turned him on.
It had been so simple to cajole him into taking her back to his place--and even easier to slip the harmless sleeping pill into his soda once they were there. Within moments of his first sip, he was out like a light, and she was on the phone. The pill she'd given him was entirely harmless, with only the mildest of headaches as an after effect, but it was enough to ensure that his transport to her home went off without a hitch.
She snapped her fingers and a soft rustling came to her out of the shadows, along with a slight clink of chain, as her first slave shuffled forward on his knees. He came to rest before her, head bent to his chest, silently awaiting her command.
She reached out and touched his head gently, smiling as she did so, pleased with his training so far. "You do well, Jarron," she praised softly, stroking his head. "You'll be ready for sale soon."
His head whipped up at that, and his wide eyes stared at her in surprise. Her smile broadened slightly and she stroked his cheek around the heavy leather strap of the large ball gag in his mouth. "Yes, that's right ... sale."
He grunted slightly, the noise muffled by the ball, and a single tear escaped him. "You knew the contract with me wasn't permanent, Jarron." She turned away from his pleading eyes as she said it. She reached out and stroked Dillon's long hair, her smile bright with expectation of the coming months he would be in her care.
Just as she'd broken Jarron, who now lowered his head again at her feet, she would break Dillon in time. They always broke. They always had and they always would. "Prepare him," she commanded softly, as she turned and left the room, locking the single door behind her with a heavy click of finality.
* * * *
Dillon was jarred awake by a rush of cold water on his face. He jerked in reaction, his brain fuzzy for a moment, then slowly clearing. His sluggish body took a moment to catch up to his mind and he gulped heavily, his jaw aching.
Had he been in a fight? He remembered going to the club, and dancing with a nameless woman; taking her back to his place, as he had done with other women, so many nights; remembered her offer of a drink ... then blackness.
He lifted his pounding head from where it had slumped forward, and blinked open his eyes. It took a moment to adjust to the dim lighting and he wondered again if he'd fallen asleep on the poor woman and rolled off the couch. It would certainly account for his aching jaw and mild headache. He must have bumped his head on the coffee table when he rolled off. He started to rise, but his arms and legs wouldn't respond. He shifted his gaze down the length of his body, trying to figure out why. It took another moment for his brain to register that he was sitting up, his legs held firmly to a chair by five, heavy leather straps that buckled over his skin.
He shifted again and felt another wide belt around his waist, and yet another, around his wide, muscular chest. He tried to lift his arm and found five more leather straps holding them immobile against the hard wood beneath them. As he came to full awareness, he realized could move only his hands and head.
Dillon began struggling, flexing his muscles against the bonds. He mumbled to himself, or tried to, until he realized why his jaw was aching so much. It was being held wide by something hard and round, pushed back behind his teeth and strapped behind his head.
"MMMMMPHHHPPPPHHHHTTTTTT," he screamed out, the sound barely reaching his own ears as he struggled futilely against the heavy leather.
"Shh..." whispered a soft voice next to his ear, as a hand reached out and stroked the back of his head. "There's no need to be afraid. I won't hurt you--much."
He whipped his head around and his eyes grew wide at the sight beside him. The nameless woman he remembered dancing with that night, stood tall and proud, next to the heavy wooden chair. She had changed from what he vaguely remembered. Instead of the short skirt, tight fitting top, and high heels she'd worn at the club, she now wore something that looked like medieval armor of some sort--or something off that TV show, Xena.
She even vaguely looked like the actress who played the character. Long legs were encased in high leather looking boots. Flat stomach, high breasts, and wide shoulders were now held erect by a heavy looking leather corset of bright red. Her long midnight black hair, which he vaguely remembered being braided, flowed freely all about her, as if it had a mind of its own.
She smiled, though it didn't quite reach her eyes, and reached out again to stroke his head like she would a child. She bent close, her face inches from his, as she whispered. "Please don't struggle so, Dillon." Her tone was calm and even. "It's useless, and I don't want you hurt anymore than I deem necessary." Her brilliant green eyes lit with something akin to passion.
"MMMMMMMPPPPPHHHHHHHTTTTTTTTT," he cried against the hard rubber in his mouth, his eyes pleading for understanding as to what was happening to him.
"Shh..." Her long nailed fingers reached out to caress his chest like a lover. "All will become clear in time," she assured him as she turned and walked a short distance away.
"MMMMMMMPPPPHHHHHTTTTTTTTT." He cried out again as she seated herself on a wide leather couch he could just make out on the other side of the room. He struggled against the bonds holding him to the chair, trying unsuccessfully to throw his considerable weight against the hard wood to move it. Dillon realized, as she sat calmly and snapped her fingers once, that the heavy chair was bolted to the floor. His struggles were futile until she decided to unbuckle him.
He felt a glimmer of hope that that was going to happen when he heard someone else in the room, shuffling toward her seated position. He tilted his head to see behind him for a moment as the shuffling grew louder, and his eyes widened with something close to fear as another male moved forward from the shadows.
His wrists were cuffed by two heavy rings of leather, and held to his waist by a single, sturdy looking padlock. A weight lifters belt encircled his trim waist, and Dillon saw it too, was locked at the small of his back as he passed. A thin chain ran from the back to his feet, locked with similar padlocks to the heavy looking cuffs at his ankles. Another short length of chain between his ankles, kept the poor man hobbled, accounting for his shuffling gait as he passed by Dillon.
He had a hard rubber ball in his mouth of bright blue, the leather holding it there locked behind his head. He made no struggling moves, as if he were resisting his bondage, but instead shuffled over to the nameless woman, a manila envelope clutched in his bound hands. He came to a stop in front of her seated position and bent his knees gracefully. Without error, he ended his descent in front of her, head bowed to his chest in reverence.
She leaned forward slightly, and took the envelope from his hands, patting his head much as one would a child that had done a good deed. She sat back again, lifting one long leg over the arm of the couch next to her. A graceful hand snaked out and turned on the light on the table next to the couch. She smiled slightly as she flipped open the envelope in her hands.
Dillon realized that the corset she wore didn't cover her private areas, and she was now fully exposed to his wide-eyed view. He struggled again, futilely pulling at the heavy leather encasing his body. His hands clenched and unclenching tightly in frustration, as he did so. "MMMMMPPPPHHHHHTTTTTT," he screamed out again, though the sound barely traveled across the large room. With the secondary light on, he could make out more of the room, and realized with a start of fear that it was a dungeon--or a basement--he couldn't tell which.
Numerous pieces of equipment, some heavy looking wood, some leather, loomed in the shadows. Their straps hung loosely toward the floor. Behind the couch on which she sat was a second couch, their backs facing one another. Beyond them, was a massive entertainment center, complete with TV, videos, VCR and what he thought might be a DVD player, or satellite system.
She smiled as she flipped one of the pages in her hand, scooting a bit further down on the couch in open invitation to the male at her feet. The male groaned heavily behind the rubber in his mouth, shaking with anticipation in his bonds, but he didn't move toward her. A spark of silver at his waist captured Dillon's attention, and he noted the heavy looking bikini style underwear the man wore.
A woman's shrill scream cut through the usual noise of the Golden Pony saloon. All eyes in the room turned in her direction. The piano went still in mid-song. Most of the patrons remained where they sat or stood, but alert for what could happen.
The woman who screamed, her low-cut red satin gown soaked by the beer one of her companions threw at the other, took a quick step backward, just in time to avoid a punch thrown by the cowboy on the opposite side. The shorter man managed to dodge and countered with a jab of his own. The two men exploded into a flurry of wild blows while the woman stood back with her hands over her mouth and watched in dismay.
Some of the other men moved from the bar or their tables to form a loose circle around the fighting men. One gravelly voiced old cowhand offered a bet on the taller fighter.
For a few minutes neither of the battlers had an advantage. The tall one threw another wild haymaker. It missed and he reeled off balance. The second man sent a punch of his own, one that connected and sent his adversary crashing into a nearby card table. The wooden surface cracked and broke under the weight of the cowboy, scattering money, chips and glass over the floor. Several of the gamblers, who had been enjoying their poker moments before, scrambled down on all fours to chase the coins and try to recoup what was theirs from the sawdust. Two of the gamblers simply rose from their chairs, raised their hands and backed away. The stunned cowhand sat in the midst of the breakage, shaking his head in confusion.
Nell Allistair had heard the scream and hurried from her office in the rear of the building. She stepped around the woman in red who now stood wide-eyed, surveying the damage. Nell took a position between the fighters, keeping the second cowboy from his fallen rival.
"Joe! Charlie!" Nell called out.
Two large, powerfully built men answered her call. They took their places, one on each side of her, ready to come to her assistance if she should she need them.
Nell took a deep breath and silently thanked her lucky stars they had a Sheriff who enforced a 'no guns in the saloon' policy. Before he made that a law, clashes over the attentions of a bar girl often came to gunfire. Fist fights were bad enough, but even those had to be stopped before they spread to become a general riot. Bored ranchers and trail hands didn't need much encouragement to join in a melee. The last big fight cost her the large mirror behind the bar, the one she paid a small fortune to have shipped from the east. One lesson noted. The picture of a scantily clad beauty hung in a gilded frame on the wall above the bar now. It wasn't great art, but one hell of a lot cheaper than the glass. Still, much of the furnishings and décor was breakable, and she didn't care to risk it. "You boys want to fight, take it outside."
A couple of bystanders moved to help the dazed cowboy back to his feet. He swayed and gazed about him, getting his bearings, unsteady as much from the alcohol he'd consumed as from the blow.
Nell motioned for the girl in red to go back to the office until things quieted, then addressed the bouncers. "Get them out of here. They don't come back in again until they learn to behave like civilized men."
The smaller ranch hand, the victor, turned to her, ready to argue, and then fell silent. He lowered his head in embarrassment. "Sorry, Mizz Nell."
"You'll be a lot more sorry tomorrow when you get the bill," Nell grumbled. Such fights upset her, but, in an area where men outnumbered women by fifty to one, they weren't unusual. Men often fought over her, too. It didn't matter that she let them all know she wasn't available for anything more than a drink, a bit of company and talk. Her life might have changed dramatically since she came west as a shy, newly graduated schoolteacher, but she still kept her distance from the men who frequented her saloon. And from men in general. Only one man ever pierced her cool exterior, and she had reason to regret that ever since.
The watchers who gathered to view the fight faded back to their tables and the bar. The show had finished for the night. The piano player reseated himself on his bench and began a rousing chorus of 'The Bonnie Blue Flag.' Life in the Golden Pony resumed its normal course.
Nell's men escorted the battered cowhands out. Her gray blue gaze followed their path toward the door. She expected to see the crotchety old Sheriff striding in to take charge at any moment. Someone had run to get him. Someone always did.
Nell started away, back to her account books, when her glance fell on one man standing alone near the door. For a heartbeat she became faint, as if one of those wild punches the cowboys were throwing had caught her in the gut and left her breathless. It couldn't be! She took a deep gulp of air, closed her eyes and counted to ten, willing herself to maintain control. When she looked again, he wasn't there. She caught her breath and made her way to the bar instead.
"Brandy," she ordered.
MacCrae, her head bartender, hastened to pour the drink for her. She sipped it, calming herself. It couldn't have been Brenden. He was locked away in a jail down Texas way for a long, long time. But it was so like him! Had she imagined a gunslinger dressed in black, one with the same arrogant stance she couldn't forget? Was he a ghost conjured up by a wishful heart? No! She shook her head, denying it. She got over him years ago!
"Something wrong, Nell?" MacCrae asked her with a frown of concern. "You look a little pale."
"Paler than usual?" she asked with an attempt at laughing it off. Her fair skin always seemed even whiter in contrast with the black dresses she wore while working in her saloon.
Nell smiled at the older man. He had worked for her since she first opened the place, more like a trusted old uncle than an employee. "Nothing," she assured him. "I'm just more tired than I thought. For a minute my eyes were playing tricks. I thought I saw someone I knew a long time back."
MacCrae nodded. "You've been putting in too many hours, Nell. It's late and we close in just an hour. Why don't you go on back out to your place and get a good night's rest?"
"I might do that." She admitted to herself she was more tired than she'd thought. She had to be, seeing things that weren't there.
Macrae's pale blue eyes crinkled at the corners when he grinned. "Don't you worry 'bout a thing here. Me and the boys can handle whatever comes up. You want to have one of the fellows ride out with you?"
"No," she said with a shake of her head. "It's not that far. Nothing on the way would hurt me."
MacCrae frowned. "Mr. Carl don't like you riding alone."
"What Mr. Carl likes, and doesn't like, hardly matters. There's no ring on this finger." She lifted her left hand to display it. "And, until such a day comes, no one tells me what I can, or can't, do." Her tone softened. "I'll be fine, Mac. I have my gun, just in case."
The big Scots bartender grinned again. "Yes, Ma'am. And you do know how to use it!" Those close to her knew Nell was a better shot than most of the men.
Nell downed the rest of her brandy and set the snifter on the bar. With a nod to MacCrae, she turned and made her way back through the noisy saloon to her office. Within minutes she sent Becky, the barmaid, back to work, changed into her riding clothes, put the books away, and closed the office. She let herself out the back door and locked it after her.
A wry smile played at her lips. Nell Allistair, tough as nails! Sure. She could imagine the laughter if someone reported the way she trembled to those men in the bar. They'd never believe her knees buckled as if they were melting butter and her hands shook, all because she glimpsed someone who looked like a man she once knew.
A man she once knew! Those few words hardly did justice to what Brenden Cassidy had been in her life. She vowed when he left her, she'd put him from her mind forever. It proved an impossible task. All else faded to nothing when she remembered his strong arms holding her, lips setting her afire? With an effort she thrust those thoughts away.
Her chestnut mare stood patiently, saddled and waiting, hitched to the post by the office's back door. MacCrae had taken care of it for her while she changed clothes; he was always thoughtful about little things like that. Nell loosed the reins and steadied her mount, ready to swing her foot up into the stirrup.
"Need a little help?"
Nell spun about before the hands on her hips had a chance to boost her. She found herself looking up into a pair of devilish dark eyes.
"It was you!" She pushed away his hands. Part of her wanted to throw her arms about his neck and smother him with kisses saved up for years. The other part was stronger, the one reminding her of the days she cried after he left her. "What in hell are you doing here? I thought you were still in Huntsville prison!"
In the moonlight he looked dark and dangerous as ever. His even white teeth showed when he grinned. "Ever hear of time off for good behavior?" his deep mellow voice drawled.
"You? Good behavior? Don't make me laugh!" Nell raised her head to look up at him. That was a mistake. Her heart beat faster and she became acutely aware of how near he stood. All the years had done was fill him out and make him more handsome. With all the strength of will she could muster she shoved him back, away from her. "How far behind you is the posse?"
"No posse, Nell. Not this time."
"What do you want here?" she snapped.
"Forget it! Leave here. You're not wanted."
He appeared to find that funny. "There are places I'm wanted. Plenty."
"Well, not here! And not by me."
"Not even a drink together, for old times sake?" He reached to touch a wisp of auburn hair that escaped the tightly drawn back bun she wore. "I like your hair better loose."
Nell brushed his hand away, took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, forcing her anger to keep her from surrendering to the insane desire to be in his arms, into putting aside the hurt and emptiness of years. She always knew one day he'd ride back into her life. It played out in her mind like a drama on stage, a hundred times and more. This man before her was older, fuller built in his maturity, but the wavy black hair still tumbled over his forehead and his dark eyes flashed with the same sensual fire. After seven years, this time it was real.
"What you like doesn't count. There's nothing here for you, Bren," Nell told him, using every effort to keep her voice cool and even. "You said goodbye to those times when you left me."
For a moment he stared down at the ground. "I suppose I did. But I was a kid then. Scared. Marriage was a big step."
"Don't you think I was scared, too?"
He shrugged. "Didn't make much difference. You didn't wait very long for me. I came back six weeks later and you had already married old man Allistair. Allistair," he snorted. "You could have done better than that!"
Nell hid her surprise; she never knew he came back. "Tom was a good man. I had my reasons."
"Sure." A sharp edge entered his voice. "A couple hundred thousand good reasons."
Nell's temper flared and she restrained the urge to slap the arrogant sneer from his face. "Contrary to what you might think, I didn't marry him for his money!"
"You going to tell me you loved him? My place in your bed wasn't even cold!"
A red haze of fury blinded her. This time she did swing at him, wanting nothing more than to knock that taunting look from his face. Brenden was quicker and caught her wrist before the blow could land.
"Still a spitfire," he grinned. "Oh, yes. I remember!"
Nell struggled vainly to break free of his grasp. "Let go of me! Do us both a favor and get the hell out of town!"
"Nice to see you, too, sweetheart. But I think I'm going to stick around here for a spell. You could change your mind. Again."
"Not in your lifetime!"
"I'll just hang around a while to see. There's some of the old fire left. I can see it when you look at me."
"Ashes, Bren! Nothing but cold dead ashes. Get out of here and leave me alone!"
He dropped her hand and stepped back. "For now, Nell. But I'm not giving up. I thought about you a lot through these years."
"Can't. I made that mistake once. You aren't easy to forget. Look, why don't we just talk? Suppose I come out to your place for dinner one night. Soon. Nice meal. Couple of drinks. Maybe we'll find it again."
Nell paled. In a sudden rush she moved to her horse and swung up into the saddle. From her perch there she paused to glare down on him. "Don't," she said. Her words came like pointed barbs of ice. "If you ever set foot on my spread, I'll have you killed. In fact, I'll shoot you myself!"
Before he could answer her, she spurred her mount and left him standing alone in the dusty alley, watching her ride away into the night.