Cade Jackson was as country as a cowboy got, but then came reporter Andi Blake to civilize him--while turning his peaceful Christmas upside down. But Cade had a reputation as a hard-driving man to uphold, even if he was a sucker for a sassy brunette in high heels... Andi had her sights set on tracking the lawless Calhoun family and exposing the secrets of their greatest bank heist. And no one was going to stop her--not even that smoldering, sexy stud Cade Jackson! Though Andi didn't come to town looking for a cowboy, now that she'd rustled up one, could she find a way to get Cade under the mistletoe?
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December 03, 2007
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Excerpt from Classified Christmas by B.J. Daniels
This year was different. Cade Jackson couldn't swear why exactly, just that he wasn't anticipating the anniversary of his wife's death with as much dread.
Maybe time did heal. Not that he didn't miss his wife. Or think of her. Especially with the anniversary of Grace's death only days away. He just didn't hurt as much when he thought of her. Nor after six years did he think of her as often.
There was something sad about that, he thought, as he watched the other ropers from the top rung of the corral. The thunder of hooves raised a cloud of dust that moved slowly across the enclosed arena.
Outside, snow continued to fall, promising a white Christmas. He breathed in the comforting scent of leather and horses, both as natural to him as the lay of the land beyond the arena walls.
Snow-covered open prairie ran to the deep cut of the Missouri River as it wound its way through Montana, the dark outline of the Little Rockies that broke the horizon.
He felt as if he'd come of out of a coma. Everything looked and smelled and felt new and different. He'd missed a lot of holidays with his family, lost in that dark place that his grief had taken him. But this year he felt as if he might make it through the holidays without having to hide out at his cabin or in his ice-fishing shack until Christmas was over.
Cade felt an odd prickling just under his skin and looked toward the window. Snow fell in huge flakes that floated down blanketing the earth with both cold and silence. He frowned at the sudden sense of apprehension he'd felt just moments before. What had that been about?
He shook it off. He wasn't going to let the old ghosts get to him. He was finally feeling as if he might make it.
Andi Blake discovered a manila envelope on her desk when she got back to the newspaper from lunch. She'd spent her first morning at the Milk River Examiner cleaning off her predecessor's desk, only a little unnerved by the fact that he'd been murdered, thus the opening.
Glen Whitaker hadn't been neat. After boxing up all of his notes, she'd cleaned the desk, scrubbing away months if not years of grime.
She gave the envelope only a sideways glance as she slipped off her jacket and hung it over the back of her chair.
The envelope was addressed to her and had a Whitehorse postmark. Nothing unusual about that except for the fact that it was addressed to Andi West, the name she'd gone by as a television newscaster in Fort Worth, Texas.
She felt a shiver of trepidation. No one here knew her as Andi let alone Andi West. Her full name was Miranda West Blake. She had been named after her father, Weston Blake. He was the one who'd nicknamed her Andi.
To put Fort Worth and the past far behind her when she'd applied for this job though, she'd used Miranda Blake and now wrote as M. W. Blake.
She'd thought by moving to Whitehorse, Montana, and using her real name that she would be able to escape from the terror that had run her out of Texas. Had it followed her?
Her heart pounded. All her old fears came back in a wave of nausea. Was it possible there was nowhere she could get away from it?
Fingers trembling, she picked up the envelope, turning it in her fingers. The contents felt light. And the package didn't sound like it was ticking. Something slid inside making her jump.
Her fear, though, gave way to anger. She was sick of being scared. She'd given up everything she loved because of some psycho. If he'd found her...
Taking out her letter opener, she sliced through one end of the envelope and carefully dumped the contents onto her desk.
She'd gotten enough of these at the television station that she knew what to expect.
A white cassette tape thudded to the desktop an instant before a piece of newspaper fluttered down beside it, surprising her.
She frowned and picked up the tape. It was file-card size. There was nothing written on it. She glanced at the CD player on her desk and wondered where she might find a cassette player that played this size tape.
Not that she would play it. She'd learned it was better not to listen to the calls although she'd read most of the letters before handing them over to the police. Except the police hadn't been able to find her stalker let alone stop him or the threatening letters and calls.
Putting down the tape, she turned her attention to the other item from the envelope. As she unfolded the news-print, she saw that it was a clipping of a local newspaper brief about a woman named Grace Jackson who'd died in a one-car rollover south of town.
She felt a wave of relief. Apparently someone thought the story warranted a follow-up. That's all this was.
True it was odd because the accident had happened six years ago Christmas Eve.
But at least it wasn't connected to Texas. Or her. She tried to relax.
Still the fact that it had been sent to Andi West bothered her. Who besides the newspaper publisher, Mark Sanders, knew her television name?