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The Outpost (Jamison Valley #4)
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Trapped in his tiny mountain cabin, she didn’t expect to fall for his big heart.
Exposing a prominent criminal family with an investigative news report didn’t exactly work out the way Sabrina had hoped. Instead of basking in the glory of her article’s success, she’s on the run from a powerful man who wants her dead. To stay safe, she’s forced to trade one bad situation for another. Stuck in the Montana wilderness, she’s secluded from anything resembling civilization or the modern-day world. The only good thing about her situation is the gorgeous mountain man assigned to protect her. Too bad he isn’t the slightest bit interested in a city girl like her.
Beau likes his life quiet and simple. Give him a peaceful day hiking in the woods with his dog, and he’s a happy man. He has no use for large crowds, noisy cities or dramatic women. So when a hotshot reporter rolls into town, dragging her big-time problems with her, he should have run for the hills. Instead, he volunteered to keep her safe. Bringing her into his world won’t be easy, but if he can convince her that Montana isn’t as terrifying as she believes, they might just be the perfect match.
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“Ms. MacKenzie? They’re ready for you.”
I nodded at the woman who had come to fetch me from my dressing room, then slid off my tall director’s chair. As I followed the woman through the labyrinth of hallways in the studio, I studied her clothes. Her all-black ensemble made me jealous and even more irritated with my colorless outfit. With my stark-white blouse and beige pencil skirt, the only color I had on was the fire-engine-red soles of my patent white Louboutin heels.
My stylist was getting an email the second I was done for the day. No more light colors for public outings. Or anything, really. The bright clothing contrasted too much with my mood.
We needed to incorporate more black.
“Can I get you anything?” my escort asked over her shoulder.
She smiled before taking a sharp right turn, leading me out onto the television set where I’d be spending the next two hours taping an interview. I winced and held up a hand to shade my eyes as they adjusted to the beaming spotlights overhead. Why did they always keep these sets so hot? Ten seconds and sweat was already dripping down my sides.
My escort left me with another woman, a pretty brunette, as she went to fetch my water.
“Sabrina MacKenzie,” the brunette said. “It’s so nice to meet you. I’m Bryce Ryan.”
“Oh, uh, hi,” I stammered, reaching out to shake my interviewer’s hand.
She grinned. “You were expecting a man, weren’t you?”
“Guilty.” My exaggerated frown made her laugh.
She turned, and I followed her to a pair of seats staged opposite one another and sat down. “It happens all the time. I’ve grown to enjoy the shock on people’s faces when they realize I’m a woman.”
That was a bit twisted, but I just smiled and left that comment hanging. My escort returned with my water and I sipped it while Bryce thumbed through her interview cards. I was reserving judgment on Bryce’s journalistic skills until after the interview, but I had a feeling those cards contained nothing but predictable questions.
How does it feel to have taken down a criminal empire?
Were you surprised when you were nominated for the award?
Are you actually considering giving up your career as an investigative journalist to keep writing smut?
Eleven interviews and no one had bothered asking me anything unique. I’d been praised for my investigative journalism and judged for my fiction. Heaven forbid I author something that women might actually enjoy reading. And to include descriptive sex scenes? Scandalous.
“Romance novels?” Bryce asked.
Oh, boy. Here we go.
I smiled sweetly. “I do love a good romance novel. Especially if there’s a little erotica mixed in too.”
She grinned. “Sounds like I’ll be buying your novel tonight.”
Maybe being interviewed by Bryce wouldn’t be so bad after all.
“Bryce,” the producer called from behind the row of cameras. “We’re all set.”
“Thanks.” She waved over the hair and makeup team. My blond hair got fluffed and placed while her skin was dusted and blushed. With both of our lips recolored, we settled in for the interview. The cameraman gave us his countdown and then Bryce did her introduction before turning to me.
“You’ve had quite the year, Sabrina. Just a little over one year ago, you wrote an article for The Seattle Times that shut down the biggest gun-smuggling operation on the upper West Coast. Then you disappeared for six months, only to reemerge as a best-selling romance novelist. You’ve just won a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting and I’ve heard that there are talks of making your book into a blockbuster. How does it feel to have reached such success in your career?”
“Thank you. It’s been wonderful, albeit very busy.” I smiled and glanced at my lap to hide the flash of pain that crashed through my heart. Nothing about my successes gave me joy. Talking about my accomplishments just reminded me of how much I had lost.
“You’ve made some major achievements since you came back to Seattle,” Bryce said. “Most journalists, including this one, would kill to be in your position. How does it feel?”
I gave her my rehearsed answer. “It’s been incredible. Surreal, really. I’m still in shock at how much has happened over the last year.”
“I can imagine.” She flipped to a new note card. “Let’s talk more about the article.”
My cheerful face belied my true feelings. I was miserable on this television set. I was exhausted from talking about that damn article. I was done having people fuss over its success.
Everyone thought it was the article that had changed my life.
It had been the six months I’d spent in Montana.
It had been the six months I’d spent with him.
Thirteen months earlier . . .
Heroines and Villains
The Seattle Times
By Sabrina MacKenzie
When I was 16, my father took me with him to the DMV to get my driver’s license. I remember the heat radiating off the black parking lot as we walked inside the courthouse. I remember the caustic smell of hot tar and worrying that my flip-flops would melt if I stood still for too long. I remember my thighs burning as I jogged up the 18 stone steps that led to the imposing building’s front doors. The DMV was located on the top floor of the courthouse and Dad asked if I wanted to take the stairs or the elevator. I chose the elevator, not wanting to be sweaty or red-faced when I took my picture.