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Marriage Bargain -- Paisley Kirkpatrick

MARRIAGE BARGAIN

She wanted independence, not a husband. Jilted twice, Darrah Benjamin journeys west, struggling to heal from her family's betrayal.

She is outraged when the captain tells her he won't let an unmarried woman travel on his wagon train. Her only option is to enter into a temporary marriage with the man the captain found on the plains and raised as a son.

He didn't want a wife, temporary or not. If he ever married, Chase would choose his own bride.

As scout, Chase had enough responsibilities protecting the emigrants from the marauding renegades who brazenly attack wagon trains on the westward route. He made up his mind to refuse the obligation Cappy asked of him until he saw her...
Chase challenges Darrah's determination to keep their marriage platonic with a vow - she’ll give him her heart and invite him into her bed before they arrive at their destination.

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He tossed his hat near the heat and raked his fingers through dark, tangled curls before he got up and rummaged through his saddlebag. He returned and handed her a pistol. "Here, if it'll make you feel more secure take this for protection. You could scream, but I doubt anyone would come to your defense out here."

She held the barrel of the gun between her thumb and index finger. After a fleeting examination, she handed it back. "Umm, no thank you. I don't feel that threatened."

He put the weapon in his saddlebag. This time he returned holding a knife. "How about my Bowie knife?" he said, grinning.

She stared at the twelve-inch blade and bit the inside of her lip to keep from smiling. He was being absolutely charming. "You're a tease. The thing is so large you could gut a buffalo with it."

He let out a deep, exaggerated sigh. "Well then, this is all I have left." He hunkered down and pulled a four-inch knife from his boot. "You might keep it for your peace of mind."

Darrah accepted the weapon. "This one's more my size, but I don't have experience using a knife of any length. Would you mind showing me the proper place to stick a blade this short? If I must protect myself, I'd prefer to inflect the most damage possible with the first thrust."

His right brow quirked. "For my own preservation, I think not." He slid the Bowie knife inside his saddlebag and stripped off his wet shirt, tossing it next to the campfire.

Frozen in fascination, she couldn't tear her gaze from the mass of dark curls covering his tanned, brawny chest. He is handsome in a rugged sort of way she had to admit.

He sat next to her and tugged off his boots. "The offer's still open. You can shed the wet skirt and crawl under my fur with me." His mouth eased into a dimpled grin. "I can guarantee you'll not be cold anymore."