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Authors: Debra Salonen

Tags: #romance, #Contemporary, #Western

Montana Darling (Big Sky Mavericks Book 3)

BOOK: Montana Darling (Big Sky Mavericks Book 3)
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Montana Darling

A Big Sky Mavericks Novella

Debra Salonen

 

 

Montana Darling

Copyright © 2014 Debra Salonen

Kindle Edition

The Tule Publishing Group, LLC

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

ISBN: 978-1-942240-26-6

Dedication

For Lilian Darcy, my kind, immensely creative, and insightful editor. I enjoyed working with you on this project and wish you all the best in your future plans. Play, giggle, break rules and be happy! Until we meet again…Deb

Table of Contents

Title Page

Copyright Page

Dedication

Dear Reader

Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

The Big Sky Mavericks Series

About the Author

Dear Reader,

I love connected stories. I love to read them and I love to write them. When I wrote my first Tule Publishing book, COWGIRL COME HOME (now, MONTANA COWGIRL, for branding purposes), I had no idea I’d wind up with a series called: BIG SKY MAVERICKS. But, once I met the Zabrinski family, I was hooked.

To the surprise of many readers, my first spin-off, MONTANA COWBOY, told Austen’s story. Yes,
that
Austen. I was relieved to find he just needed the right heroine to whip him into shape. And I couldn’t tell his story without introducing his twin sister, Mia.

Poor Mia. That’s what everyone says. A breast cancer survivor and single mom, Mia’s fed up with having things taken from her. Look out, hot, gorgeous, interesting stranger camping on her land. You’re about to meet your match…your perfect match.

I couldn’t have written Mia’s story with the generous help of my dear friend, Linda Barrett, who documented her experiences as a two-time breast cancer survivor in her wonderful book,
Hopefully Ever After
(available in print and ebooks).

Also I consider myself so lucky to have worked with the fabulous Lilian Darcy as my editor on this book. Lilian’s understanding of story and the fundamental workings of the creative brain brought so many insights to this story and my characters. I learned so much. I can’t thank you enough, Lilian.

I hope you enjoy Mia’s story and develop a curiosity about her older sister, Meg, whose book follows soon. Please keep your eyes open for the newly titled, MONTANA MAVERICK.

Happy reading, my friends,

Deb

Prologue


T
he boy lifted
his face to the sun and inhaled deeply.

Heaven, he thought, is Montana in the summer.

He put his new camera to one eye, squeezing the other so he could focus on the scene in his viewfinder. His father stood thirty feet away, casting back and forth like one of those old mechanical toys they saw at the museum in Bozeman. No waders for Dad, who insisted he needed contact with the river to “feel the fish.”

He snapped a shot, then looked for his brother in the distance.

No luck.

Only the flickering tip of his brother’s rod was visible a hundred yards away. Mr. Independent, Dad called him. Two years older meant he didn’t have to wear the hideous, bright orange Coast-Guard-approved safety vest that smelled like fish and chafed the boy’s bare arms when cast. But no amount of complaining helped. Dad said even good swimmers could panic and drown in the fast moving Marietta River and he wasn’t taking any chances because Mom would kill him if he returned to Pennsylvania one kid short.

A sound reached his ears. Not the usual bird cries or the muffled roar of Harleys on the road that led to Yellowstone. Laughter punctuated with high-pitched squeals. He squinted against the bright light as a girl in a red swimsuit rounded the bend in the river, her legs draped over a big black inner tube. She kicked hard, water splashing.

She had something clenched in one fist as she paddled fiercely with her free hand, obviously trying to stay ahead of the others that followed. He could hear their shouts but the only thing he could make out was one word: Nitro.

Her dark, wet hair was pulled back in a ponytail that trailed in the water when her head dipped backward. Water drops on her tanned skin sparkled like tiny jewels. Even from a distance he could tell her eyes were blue. Electric blue. The color of the vodka bottle Dad brought for his evening cocktail.

The boy’s hand shook as he hurried to take her picture. This was something special. A moment in time that might never come again.

The expression on her face was part laughter and part win-at-all-cost. Clamped in her mouth like a knife was a smoking punk—the kind he and his brother used to light fireworks on the Fourth of July. Taking a break from paddling, she pinched off something, held it to the punk then tossed it high in the air, nearly upsetting her tube.

A loud crack filled the air, followed by three or four more explosions.

Firecrackers.

She had another ready to light when she spotted him.

Her eyes went wide. Her top teeth bit down on her bottom lip, a look of being caught doing something wrong on her face.

“Sorry,” she called, as the other kids caught up to her.

She pointed to the boy, their camp.

The bigger kids—there were six total—formed a circle around her—probably to make sure she didn’t throw any more firecrackers and disturb the fishermen. One thing the boy knew about western Montana, people took their sports seriously.

The older kids in the group exchanged words with Dad, but the boy didn’t pay them any mind. He couldn’t stop looking at the girl in the red suit. She kept looking over her shoulder at him, too.

He snapped another shot. A keeper. He’d bet anything on it.

He watched until they were nearly out of sight.

Just before the flotilla cleared the bend where his brother was fishing, he saw the girl kick free and spin around to face him. She took the punk from her lips and waved. Her smile was the sweetest thing he’d ever, in his whole life, seen. And it made him happy.

He didn’t know why.

It just did.

He carried his camera to dry land and stashed it in his sleeping bag. He couldn’t wait to finish the roll so he could get it developed. He wanted to see the picture of the girl—the girl he’d never forget.

Chapter 1


“J
ab. Jab. Uppercut.
That’s the way. Now, give me two knee lifts…and a kick. Quickly, now. Repeat.”

Mia Zabrinski blinked the salty sting of sweat from her eyes with the back of her glove so she could see the video she’d uploaded on her tablet that morning. Her sides heaved. Lungs burned. Her pathetic little biceps quivered from the use/abuse. Not for the first time since she moved back to her old home town of Marietta, Montana, she asked herself what the hell am I doing and how did I get here?

She’d loved her old gym in Cheyenne. Fresh, hip, and stylish. She’d felt smart, alive and cool every time she walked through the door. Now, she was stuck in her parents’ basement in the space once dedicated to her super-jock twin brother, Austen. Back then, she’d secretly resented all the attention he got on the playing field, but she’d used that to fuel her own successes. Academically and in life. She’d one-upped him a few times—first to marry, first to have kids.

First to crash and burn.

“Give me ten squat kicks starting now. Kick. Higher. Faster. Build on your power,” the lithe woman instructor ordered.

“What power?” Mia would have cried if she weren’t struggling to get enough oxygen.

She’d handed over her power as payment to board the Eradicate Fucking Cancer Express fifteen months earlier. She’d opted for the most aggressive treatment available. No hoping for the best where her life was concerned. A single mom with two kids in her care didn’t gamble on pesky leftover cancer cells.

“Okay. Good. Take it back a notch as we start winding down. Stretch right. Reach. Breathe.”

She inhaled deeply, ignoring the residual twinges from stretched skin and perky new replacement boobs. “Let me give you new breasts, Mia,” her doctor in Cheyenne had begged. “You’ll feel whole again. More you.”

“No more surgery. I don’t have time to go through this again. I need to move my kids and get them settled. I have to find a new job. From the outside, I look as normal as I need to be,” she’d argued.

But her mother, Austen—even her sister, Meg—weighed in on the subject until Mia finally caved. Now, she was whole—whatever that meant. Outwardly, at least. Inside, she was a hot, screaming mess.

She was a fighter and, as anybody in her family would volunteer, as tenacious as a Montana winter.

She stayed married to a man she didn’t love until he walked out on her. She’d stayed in—and excelled at—a job she hated—prosecuting the scum of the earth in Cheyenne, Wyoming—because it gave her the illusion of power. Her take home pay had matched Edward’s, which brought a certain level of satisfaction, too. Their combined incomes placed them in an economic bracket that provided a gorgeous home she could hire someone else to clean. Their children went to private schools—fat lot of good it did them. Her life was freakin’ perfect—until it wasn’t. Until the day Edward told her, “I’m done playing this charade. Get a good divorce lawyer. I suggest Don Cho.”

BOOK: Montana Darling (Big Sky Mavericks Book 3)
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