Outcast
Joan Johnston

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Outcast
Joan Johnston

Ben Benedict is tortured by nightmares… Society bachelor and former army sniper Ben Benedict moves between two worlds — from high-society Washington to the mean city streets, from tuxedos to Glocks. His powerful Virginia family wants him out of harm’s way, but Ben stays on the job, determined to make amends for a past that haunts him. And becomes a ticking time bomb Dr Anna Schuster is fighting demons of her own when she crosses paths with Agent Benedict.The two become adversaries — and lovers — as they search for an Al Qaeda operative bent on revenge. Ben must fight against time — and his own darkness — to rescue millions of innocents and the woman he loves from a virulent bioweapon in the hands of a dangerous enemy.“Skilful storyteller Johnston makes what would in lesser hands be melodrama compellingly realistic. ” — Booklist

Praise for the novels of

JOAN JOHNSTON

“Johnston warms your heart and tickles your fancy.”

—New York Daily News

“Romance devotees will find Johnston lively and well-written, and her characters perfectly enchanting.”

—Publishers Weekly

“Joan Johnston continually gives us everything we want … a story that you wish would never end, and lots of tension and sensuality.”

—RT Book Reviews

“Joan Johnston [creates] unforgettable subplots and characters who make every fine thread weave into a touching tapestry.”

—Affaire de Coeur

“Johnston’s characters struggle against seriously deranged foes and face seemingly insurmountable obstacles to true love.”

—Booklist

“A guaranteed good read”

—New York Times bestselling author Heather Graham

Also by

Joan Johnston

New York Times bestselling author of the Hawk’s Way series and the Bitter Creek novels, which include

THE COWBOY

THE TEXAN

THE LONER

THE PRICE

THE RIVALS

THE NEXT MRS. BLACKTHORNE

A STRANGER’S GAME

only from MIRA Books

Please visit her website at

www.JoanJohnston.com

for a complete listing of her titles and series.

Outcast

Joan

Johnston

www.mirabooks.co.uk (http://www.mirabooks.co.uk)

For Logan and Meghan

Bright lights in my life

who shine with joy.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

This book happened because I met a stranger on a plane. I was looking for an occupation for the hero of the first book of a brand-new series, and my new friend’s husband just happened to be an ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agent. My hero quickly joined this updated branch of Homeland Security.

I want to thank Karen Goldsberry for her inspiration and support during the writing of this book. I’m grateful for the friendship of Sally Schoeneweiss, who listens with kind ears to my work in progress. A special thanks to Karna Small Bodman for advice on who’s who in Washington. Any mistakes are mine.

Thanks to Liesa Malik and Pat Feliciano for locating information I couldn’t find no matter how hard I looked.

I especially want to thank the sales force at Harlequin Books, who are so good about making sure my books get into the hands of readers. Kudos to Margaret O’Neill Marbury and Adam Wilson, who help me make my work the very best it can be. My thanks to Mary Helms, Amy Jones and Margie Miller for their parts in creating the stunning cover for Outcast.

There is no maintenance shed behind Lincoln Middle School. I’ve created problems with the magnetometer and MPD cop on duty at the school to suit my fictional novel.

Finally, I wish to thank the (anonymous) ICE agent who provided me with background information on ICE procedures.

Prologue

Ben Benedict’s gaze moved restlessly from one potential partner to the next in the Georgetown bar. He wanted a woman. Check that. He wanted sex. Which made him a bastard, he supposed. It was hard to admit that what he really wanted—what he really needed—was to hold another human being close. To feel alive. To forget.

He gritted his teeth as his hands began to tremble. He turned toward the mirror behind the dark, crowded bar and clenched his fists on his knees. He stared down at the glass of McClelland’s single malt whiskey in front of him. Alcohol would dull his senses while he was awake, but it wouldn’t keep him from dreaming. It sure as hell didn’t stop the nightmares.

Ben pictured himself walking along a mountain trail through a fragrant forest of green pines and golden aspen, sunlight streaming through the lush foliage, and felt the tension ease from his body.

“I saw you looking at me. I thought I’d come over and say hello.”

He took his time turning to face the pretty young woman who’d slid onto the bar stool next to him. He flattened his now-quiet hands on his jeans and prayed his body would cooperate long enough for him to do the sweet-talking necessary to get her into bed.
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