Rising Assets

Maverick Montana Book 3
March 31, 2014
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Friends with benefits was never the plan…

Melanie Jacobs is in trouble. With three jobs—including running her ranch—and dwindling funds, she’s exhausted. Not to mention desperately trying to hide a secret. Unfortunately, her best friend Colton Freeze knows all too well that’s something is going on, and he won’t give up until he knows exactly what he needs to fix.

Then Colton learns the truth—that Melanie’s future happiness rests in the fickle hands of fate, and her chances for having a family are shrinking with every passing day. Her only comfort is Colton, but when a heated argument between them turns into an even hotter kiss, the boundaries of their friendship are erased, leaving only a scorching-hot hunger for more.

Every kiss—every touch—is a stolen pleasure. But will their new friends-with-sexy-benefits arrangement bring them closer together, or destroy everything they once shared?

Other Books in the Maverick Montana Series

“She can’t be working here. No way.” Colton Freeze leaned forward in his chair and slid his nearly empty beer on the battered wooden table. A jukebox belted out Garth Brooks, peanut shells lined the floor, and longnecks took residence on almost every table in the bar. Unfortunately, the sense of home failed to relax him.
“I’m only telling you what Mrs. Nelson said at the bank.” His friend, Hawk, turned toward the long, oak bar. “If she is working here, I wish she’d show up so I can go home to bed.”
“Soon.” Colton shook his head. “There is no way Melanie works at the coffee place in the morning, her ranch all day, and Adam’s bar at night.” And she hadn’t bothered to tell him. He’d been out of town finishing his master’s degree and then securities degree, and nobody had thought to tell him his best friend was working herself to death? A fear he hadn’t experienced in over ten years slammed him between the eyes, nearly bringing on a migraine. He shoved the sensation away.
“I didn’t know, or I would’ve called.” Hawk gazed thoughtfully across the smoky room, his odd green eyes narrowed.
“You’ve only been home a day.” Colt frowned. He cocked his head as the bartender called out with a friendly, “Hi, Mel.”
Damn it. She was working in the bar. Colton steeled his shoulders and schooled his face into a pleasant expression. If he yelled at her right off the bat, she wouldn’t talk to him.
He needed to speak with her. While they’d grown a part a little bit during their teenage years, when they’d moved on into the world, they’d kept in touch as he attended school. After her grandfather had died two years ago, they’d reconnected, and Colton had made sure to call, text, and email while he studied.
After a short time, he couldn’t sleep without talking to her and sharing his day. Maybe he should’ve been home instead of pursuing knowledge.
As his best friend, she was needed. He’d almost lost her once, and he’d never allow himself to feel such fear again. Plus his gut churned that she hadn’t shared her problems with him. “Where in the world is she?” he muttered.
She stepped out from behind the bar, and he straightened in his chair. “What the hell?”
Hawk emitted a slow whistle. “Wow.”
Yeah, wow. Melanie’s customary outfit of faded jeans, scuffed boots, and a working T-shirt was absent for the night. “Adam must have made her wear the outfit.” Son of a bitch. He’d kill the bar owner.
Hawk leaned forward, elbows on the table. “She looks good.”
She looked better than good, and shock sprang Colt’s cock into action. A tight tank top showed off perfect breasts, while a skirt curved along her butt to stop a couple of inches away. Long, lean legs led down to high-heeled boots. She was a wet dream come true.
Melanie wobbled a full tray of drinks to deliver to a table of rowdy farmers.
“Maybe the medical bills from her grandpop’s fight with cancer added up, and she needed the extra money?” Hawk rolled his shoulder and finished his beer.
Colton exhaled but couldn’t look away from the sexy brunette. Sexy? Jesus. It was just the shock of the new look. She was still Mel, still his best friend. “So now I need to worry about both of you. What the hell?”
Hawk sighed. “Tell me you didn’t ask me out for a beer my first night home to lecture me.”
Colton turned toward his oldest friend. Lines of exhaustion fanned out from Hawk’s eyes, and a dark purple bruise mottled his left cheekbone. He was usually battered when he returned home from active duty, but this time a hardness had entered Hawk’s eyes. Now wasn’t the moment to bug him, however. Colton shrugged. “Nope. Just wanted to catch up. I’ll push you tomorrow on leaving the SEALs.”
“Fair enough.” Hawk took a deep swallow of his beer as his gaze remained on Melanie. “I’m glad you called. It appears as if things might get interesting tonight.”
Doubtful. Colton turned his attention back to the woman who hadn’t trusted him enough to let him know she was in trouble. Something in his chest ached, and he shoved the irritant aside with anger. While he was known for a slow-to-burn temper, especially in comparison with his two older brothers, when he exploded, it was legendary.
But there’d be no temper tonight. First, he had to figure out what the hell was going on, and then he had to solve the issue. Logically and with a good plan. So when Mel glanced his way, he lifted his empty glass.
She nodded and hitched around full tables to reach him. “Why did you cut your hair?” Her face was pale as she tried to tug her skirt down.
He knew she wouldn’t be comfortable half nude in public. “When the hell did you start waitressing in a fucking bar?” The words slipped out before he could stop them.
“Smooth,” Hawk muttered into his beer.
Melanie arched a delicate eyebrow and released the bottom of the skirt. “Last I checked, my grandfather was dead and you weren’t my keeper. Do you want another beer or not?” The tray hitched against her hip—a hip that wasn’t nearly as curvy as it had been the previous year. She’d lost weight.
Even so, he wanted to grab that hip and… “What time do you get off?” he asked.
A dimple twinkled in her cheek. “It depends who I take home with me.”
He couldn’t help but grin back. “You are such a big talker.”
“I know.” She shoved curly brown hair away from her face. Hair wild and free. “Why are you asking? Think you’ll need a ride home?”
“I’m taking you home, and we’re talking about your three jobs.” He tried to smooth his voice into charming mode, but the order emerged with bite.
“The last time you tried to boss me around, I hit you in the face and you cried for an hour.” She nodded at a guy waving for a drink from a table on the other side of the dance floor.
Colton threw the guy a glare. “I did not cry.”
“Did too,” Hawk whispered.
Colton shot a look at his buddy before focusing back on Mel. He’d been seven years old, and she’d almost broken his nose. “My eyes watered from the punch. That wasn’t crying.” They’d been having the argument for nearly two decades, and the woman never let up. “You’ve cried on my shoulder many a time.”
She reached for his glass. “That’s because men are assholes, and you have great shoulders.”
Every boy or man who’d ever hurt her had ended up bashed and bloody afterward because either he or Hawk had made sure of it. “You’re right on both counts. Which begs the question, if you’re in trouble, why aren’t you crying on my shoulder now?”
Sadness filtered through her deep eyes. “You’re my friend, not my knight. It’s time I stood on my own two feet.”

*   *   *

Colton forced his hands to unclench and his voice to remain calm. “Are you all right, Mel?”
She nodded, her eyes too wide in her too pale face. “Yes.”
Frustration swept through him, and he fought to keep calm. The sight of Mel’s frightened face would keep him up for nights. She shouldn’t be managing a ranch all by herself—accidents always happened.
He strode through the storm, grasped her arm, and began leading her back to the house. “Are you all right?” he asked, once he stepped onto the covered front porch.
“Me?” she laughed, the sound slightly off-kilter. “You’re bleeding.”
He wiped blood off his forehead. “Just a scratch.” Clearing his throat, he tried to stomp mud off his boots while tugging a clean bandana from his inside coat pocket to wipe his hands clean. “I, ah, need a shower.”
She stepped toward him, and he lifted an eyebrow. After what seemed like a small mental debate, she grabbed his destroyed shirt and tugged. Stretching up on her toes, her mouth slid against his.
Fire lashed through him so quickly he swayed. A million thoughts exploded at once, and he shut them down. Completely.
Groaning, he hauled her close and took over. The fear, the storm, the fury all comingled into raw need inside him. There were no more thoughts, no more uncertainties.
There was only this woman and this moment.
So he took both as deep as he could. He angled his mouth, and she drew a sharp breath, holding it.
Her lips softened beneath his as he explored her, learning her taste. Wild huckleberries and brandy? The most delicious combination in existence. She moaned deep in her throat, the sound sparking down his torso to his balls.
Her grip on him was strong and sure. He bent her, his hands full of woman. Brushing a hand across her firm ass, he shuddered. “Do you know how long I’ve wanted you?” Punctuating his words, he cupped a handful. Firm and tight, her flesh was better than he’d dreamed.
He shouldn’t have said that. But the connection between his mouth and brain had disappeared.
She sighed against him, pressing closer. “Hurry.”
“Hell, no.” He reached behind them to shove open the door, backing her inside. Heat blasted them. His hold tightened, and he lifted her to sit on the rugged entryway table, legs spread, shirt now muddy and wet.
The storm raged outside, rain clashing down past the covered porch. He kicked shut the door. Even so, the wildness inside him overtook any sense of caution. Of reality.
Letting go of any doubts, he fisted her hair and twisted, putting her right where he wanted her. She returned his kiss, gyrating against him, the calm Melanie turning into a wildcat.
Her nails bit into his coat. She unclenched her hold and released him in a primitive display of trust.
He wouldn’t let her fall. God, this was Melanie. He gentled his touch, leaning back. Slowly, he ran his knuckles across her smooth cheekbone. “You’re beautiful,” he breathed. The woman mattered, and he’d take care of her..

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“This was my first book in the Maverick, Montana series. I have to say, I’ll be going back and reading the other 2 books. Rebecca Zanetti sure does know how to write a dirty talking cowboy.” – Four Stars Cocktails and Books

Five stars from author Robin Covington

Rising Assets was an enjoyable and heartfelt read with wonderful characters and some scorching hot sexy times.” – Four Stars – Lisa from Sinfully Sexy

4 Sweet and Sexy Cowboy Stars – Lana from Dirty Girl Romance Book Blog

“OH MY! I LOVED this book from the first to the last page! The story line was FANTASTIC! The characters were PHENOMENAL ! I laughed, I cried, I smiled, I sighed.” Kathleen from Swept Away by Romance