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Code Name_ Outlaw
Author: Janie Crouch


Chapter 1



Jenna Franklin stood staring out the window of her house in western Wyoming, eyes frozen on the breathtaking scenery in front of her.

Staring out at the Grand Tetons wasn’t unusual. Most of the people who came to the more remote section of this state did so because of the mountain range and national park. They wanted to hike in warm weather or ski in the cold. Or just enjoy the vast blue sky above and the greenery all around them.

God’s country. Western Wyoming had been called the closest thing to heaven on earth by more than one person.

Right now, Jenna called it closer to hell.

Although, granted, it wasn’t the Tetons’ fault. Anywhere outside was the equivalent to hell for Jenna.

Just standing at the window was enough to make her breathing grow more labored and turn her palms clammy. It was all she could do not to back away from the beautiful scenery assaulting her eyes.

She knew she was safe here. This was Oak Creek. She had dozens of friends living all around this area.

And not just regular friends, warrior friends. Former Special Forces soldiers who’d come home to create Linear Tactical—a self-defense and survival training school to teach civilians the skills they’d honed in the military—friends.

And their wives, who were just as badass as the former soldiers themselves.

Jenna had friends all around this tiny town, almost all of whom knew what she had survived and would do anything to help her. This had to be the safest place on the planet for her.

But still, standing here knowing she needed to go outside had her stomach clenching so hard she might vomit on the floor.

It didn’t matter that she logically knew outside posed no real threat to her.

Outside was the enemy. Outside would choke the life out of her. Outside would…


She couldn’t let that line of thought take over. She’d been back in Oak Creek nearly three weeks, and she hadn’t forced herself outside once. That was a new low even for her.

This had to end today. If she kept losing ground, how long until she’d lose herself completely?

She needed to go outside.

Exposure therapy. That’s what her multiple psychiatrists called it. Going outside a little bit at a time, until one day, maybe outside wouldn’t be terrorizing at all.

Today was definitely not that day.

Her nails gripped into the soft wood of the window frame. Five minutes. That was all she was asking of herself—to go out for five minutes. Three hundred seconds.

She had to go outside today. She couldn’t lose yet another day to the irrational fears that tried to control her mind.

Jenna stepped back from the window, but she knew better than to try going straight out the front door. That would be a disaster. Instead, she marched into her garage, not stopping until she was inside her car. She sat inside it without starting it, letting her rapid heart rate ease a little.

Her car was also a safe place. On the outside, it looked like a regular mid-range SUV. But it was fortified in ways that most normal people wouldn’t ever even think about: bulletproof glass, anti-hijack doors that no one could open except for her once she was inside, anti-slash tires. Her vehicle was a safe place.

But she couldn’t stay here. She needed out of a safe place. The sound of her own heartbeat thrashed in her ears as she punched in the code to open her garage door.

Then she pulled the car out to the end of her short driveway. For anyone watching, it would seem absurd that she was sitting in her car doing nothing—neither leaving nor going back inside.

Just sitting there, paralyzed.

Her grip on the steering wheel made her knuckles white. She finally forced herself to let go and reach for the handle of the door. Her teeth chattered and her fingers shook as she punched in the code that would open it.

Jenna had to do this now or she wasn’t going to do it at all.

Five minutes. She would stand in her driveway for five damned minutes. She could survive anything for that short amount of time.

She heard her watch automatically start timing as she stepped outside of the car. It would beep when her torture session was complete.

She closed the door but kept a hand on her vehicle as everything began spinning around her. She made it ten seconds before her breakfast ended up vomited on the pavement.

She reached for the car door, desperate to escape this torment, but then stopped. She had to do this. Five minutes.

She forced herself to complete one of the grounding mechanisms a therapist had given her to ward off panic attacks.

List five things you can see.

She could barely see anything with her eyes so runny from the vomiting, but she completed the exercise.

She could see the mountains.

The blue sky.

Her car. The house. Her…feet.

Whatever, it still counted.

List four things you can hear.

Her breathing. It was hard to hear anything over her breathing. She held her breath for just a second and found she could hear other things.

A bird.

And then maybe a car off in the distance.

That was only three, but it was close enough.

Three things you can touch.

She touched her own shoulder. Okay.

The car. Okay.

The mailbox was only a few steps away. She could touch that too. She let go of the car and walked toward the mailbox.


Immediately, pressure slammed into Jenna’s chest, making it impossible to breathe. Her fingers ripped at her throat, but she couldn’t get any air in.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re ever going to get out of here.

Jenna pushed her hands over her ears, but it didn’t help. The voices were inside her head—covering her ears wasn’t going to stop them. She stumbled back toward the car.

You will do exactly what we tell you to do, or you will discover there are worse things than dying.

Fists. Kicks. Curling into a ball and trying to survive.

She fell hard against the car. The world was blacking out around her as she was swallowed by the past. If she didn’t get inside her vehicle in the next few seconds, she wouldn’t make it inside at all.

A broken jaw. Concussion. This guy is going to be eating out of a straw for quite a while.

She let out a low moan with the oxygen she had left. No, that was even worse. She couldn’t think about that.

She punched in the code on the driver’s side door, getting it wrong the first time. Damn it, she had to concentrate; there was only a one-time grace period. She focused all her waning attention on the keypad and typed in the code again.

Maybe the animals will finish you off this time. We’ll see if you’re still alive tomorrow.

She let out a sob as the locks clicked, and she yanked the door open, diving into the seat. As soon as she pulled the door closed behind her, some of the pressure eased, and she felt like she could breathe again. At least enough to keep herself from passing out.

She lay there, head wrapped in her arms as she tried to reclaim actual reality, real reality, not the dizzying blend of past and present and hell.

When she could finally control herself enough to pull into the garage and lower the door behind her, she looked down at her watch. It had automatically stopped timing when she’d gotten back inside the car. Surely she had made it to close to five minutes.

Fifty-eight seconds.

All that and she hadn’t even made it a minute.

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