Authors: Jessica Brooke,Ella Brooke
Sheikh's Scandalous Mistress
By: Sophia Lynn and Jessica Brooke
All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2015-2016 Sophia Lynn
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Table of Content
Amanda Sinclair kept her head held high, ignoring her fellow reporters’ wolf whistles.
Several of the guys from Metro snickered as she walked by, and Amanda thought she heard Simmons call her Dead Meat Walking. She’d heard worse. Some of the staff had been saying terrible things loud enough for her to hear all week. However, it chafed. It was clear that most of the other journalists at the
were jealous. She’d been working nonstop for six months on her expose of Senator Jackson. He was the chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations and a secret arms dealer. Amanda might have jumped the gun publishing the first in her series, but she had multiple corroborating sources. She was definitely going to nail his ass. Jackson was as dirty as they came, and she was about to prove it.
If the rest of Metro thought she’d been foolish to jump to publishing before her editor had given the final go-ahead, then they could keep their unsolicited advice and opinions strictly to themselves.
Or, better yet, they could shove it up certain orifices that shall remain nameless.
Her best friend, Margery, offered her a small smile and a thumbs-up, even as the rest of the office seemed to part for her like the Red Sea. Her best friend was also on Metro, but she’d been content to cover the ins and outs of DC infrastructure. Margery covered which public school was getting an overhaul or a new construction deal, but Amanda was trying to work her way up to the top beat. Those were the reporters that permanently covered Capitol Hill, and if she made it there, it could hopefully net her a Pulitzer nomination. Her masterwork on Senator Jackson was supposed to get her there. But now…
When Donald Harris, her grizzled editor, had screamed across the office that he wanted to see her butt and
, even Amanda couldn’t ignore the signs. She just wasn’t going to let anyone else know she felt like she was approaching the gallows.
Never let them see you sweat
Her mom, who’d been a decorated reporter for the
, had always said that. Even now, Amanda clung to that advice. A real reporter couldn’t be vulnerable, and she refused to ever show weakness. Not after all she’d been through in her life. While she couldn’t tell Harris to shove it, she could still go in there with dignity. She’d tell him that he was overreacting and that her piece was important—it would put the struggling
back on the map.
At least that was the plan.
But nothing ever went to plan, did it?
“You know why I’ve called you in here, don’t you?” Harris asked. There was a no-smoking policy in the office, but that didn’t stop him from nursing a thick cigar between his lips. She coughed a bit as the smoke unfurled from its tip. “Seriously, Sinclair, do you have any idea how badly you’ve fucked up?”
She stilled in her chair. It wasn’t the curse word, itself, that worried her. It was just that despite his old newsman persona, Harris wasn’t one to cuss. He’d often said that it didn’t serve any point to revert to swear words, and he was too old and established to use shock value to get his reporters to comply with his needs. No, if Donald Harris was cursing, then things truly had gotten fubar.
Shaking his head, he began to pace before the large window in the corner of his room. “For the last two days, I’ve been on the phone with Senator Jackson’s press secretary. But it didn’t stop there. The senator called at least twice to personally yell at me, followed by a call from his pricey lawyers over on K Street. They sent the owner a cease-and-desist letter. They want a retraction on your first piece and then they want you gone.”
“Of course he wants me gone! Senator Jackson is a damn arms dealer—he’s in cahoots with the biggest cartels in El Salvador and Guatemala! He
me gone. I mean, let them sue us. I have the proof.”
“And you published before I cleared it. Look, Sinclair, I’ve always liked you. You’re a hothead, but your work is great and it’s honest. Personally?” he said, gesturing vaguely to his chest. “I think that Senator Jackson is as crooked as they come.”
“See? We can fight this. It’s not like we don’t have our own lawyers.”
“We can’t afford this fight. Circulation’s down twenty-five percent this year alone, and we already lost a suit because of that drunken fistfight our sports reporter started on opening day. The truth is
is tapped out. I’m sorry.”
Her heart started hammering. The old pit-bull mentor of hers was tough, but Harris had always had a soft spot for her. There was no way he was firing her. That wasn’t possible. Couldn’t be. She’d had to work her way up here from a nowhere paper in Northern Virginia. If she lost her job she’d be stuck back there or worse. Considering the state of journalism today, there was a good chance her only option would be blogging from her breakfast nook.
“Are you firing me? You can’t! Not after five years! You know what I bring to this paper—you’ve seen the awards I’ve won for the
. I mean, are we about truth and justice or are we about avoiding suits?”
“Usually we’re about both,” he said. “And I didn’t say I was firing you, Sinclair. Jesus, jump to less conclusions.”
She frowned, pushing her long blond hair back out of her face. It tended to fall out of her tight buns at the worst times. “Okay, so I have to drop the story. What’s the real catch?”
“Why do you think there’s a catch?”
“Because it’s life and there’s
a catch,” she continued. “So I’m not fired, but what else aren’t you telling me, Donald?”
He sighed and sat down on the corner of his desk. She watched him stamp out the butt of the cigar into his old, yellow-glass ashtray. “Have you ever wanted a long vacation?”
“Son of a bitch!” she shouted again. She drained her mojito but wasn’t feeling enough of the rum yet. Intellectually, Amanda understood that Harris had stuck his neck out for her, and that any other editor would have thrown her to the wolves to be fired or sued into oblivion. Still, the alternative wasn’t any better. She was being exiled, and the bitch of all of it was that Senator Jackson was just going to walk. “I can’t believe it.”
Margery frowned back at her, her brown eyes concerned behind the thick rims of her nerd chic glasses. “It’s not that bad.”
“I’m being shipped off to the middle of nowhere. I’m gone, removed from the hustle and bustle of both DC and the Metro.”
“You’re being melodramatic. It’s just six months! Considering you rushed to press before he gave the final go-ahead, you’re really lucky that’s all you got,” Margery continued, sipping at her Long Island iced tea.
“I’m not even talking about being sent to Abu Dhabi. I know that’s at least a bustling tourist destination. I mean they sent me back to Life and Style. I’m going to be covering the opening of a casino, and then? What? Am I going to cover the start of a waterpark in Shanghai? Maybe a new roller coaster in Berlin? This is demeaning. I’m a reporter, not a glorified puff-piece press agent.”
“And you’re still a reporter. You can lay low for a few months.”
She narrowed her eyes at her friend. “
is not ‘a few.’ Six is half a year.” Amanda heaved a heavy sigh and gestured to the waitress. “Can I get a Sex on the Beach?”
“You might want to pace yourself. You’re going to have to pack quickly if you’re going to be there in time for the Ali Babba Casino unveiling next week,” her friend suggested.
Amanda didn’t care. She almost had that bastard nailed dead to rights. But now? Now she’d be going half a world away to a ridiculously named hotel, just to ask an assistant about the executive chef at its sushi restaurant or the seating capacity in the stage show theater. The fact she’d be doing it in one hundred and twenty-five degrees Fahrenheit each day just added insult to injury.
“I think I need another drink. I’ll try and forgive myself tomorrow. I just…you know how important that story was to me. You should have met the families I talked to, the people who have been ruined by the cartels and then fled here. It’s not even just them. The few ex-aides I was able to get to talk by offering protection?”
Margery nodded and leaned in closer. “Yes?”
“They were scared. They were always shaking when I talked to them. This man is beyond dangerous, and people keep saying he’s going to run for president in the next cycle. He needs to be brought to justice. Instead, I’m going to let down all those people who trusted me. They told me their stories so they’d get out, so maybe one day they’d be safe. They didn’t do it so I could ask someone in Abu Dhabi about their blackjack tables.”
Margery patted her hand. “But you sometimes have to live to fight another day. If you reach out to even more contacts while you’re in the Middle East, maybe then you can get a mountain of evidence even Jackson’s lawyers can’t bury.”
“My mom wouldn’t run,” Amanda lamented, gratefully pausing to sip the drink the waitress had brought. It was her third mixed drink in an hour, and she’d be regretting it in the morning, but right now she just needed the oblivion. She needed not to care. “She was never scared of anything.”
Margery swallowed and seemed unsure of what to say next. “You know that…”
“What? My mom put everything she had into her job at the
. She was one of their most decorated reporters, and she helped find things that got a vice president impeached and imprisoned.”
“She also died under less than normal circumstances,” Margery pointed out. “You’ve said yourself a million times, what happened to her in the garage when you were nine never made any sense.”
“I know,” she said, her throat constricting at how much she missed her mother. Some things didn’t stop hurting even after sixteen years. They said her mom had committed suicide, but she knew for a fact her mom hadn’t been depressed
that people had been following both of them. A strange man had come up to her at the playground twice the week before. “But she did what was right. I know she’d be disappointed if I just nodded my head like a good girl and fled to Arabian wonders.”
“No one talks like that,” Margery said, chuckling. “It’s not retreating or running away. It’s just regrouping. You can get Jackson, but you have to be smarter about it. Look, if Harris didn’t believe in you and didn’t eventually want this scumbag to go down, then you really would be planning out your day tomorrow at the unemployment office. He didn’t do that. You just have to be smart.”
“Are you saying my mom wasn’t?”
“I didn’t know your mom. But no matter how good a reporter she was, she clearly made some enemies and she left you alone too.”
“Not because she wanted to,” Amanda objected.
“True. But intentional or not, the effects come out all the same,” Margery said. “You miss her and maybe…”
“Maybe sometimes being smart is better than being right.”
“I owe those people, Margie. They told me all their stories, all their fears, and I swore on my honor I’d take Jackson down. Now they’re going to see that nothing got published and I’m on what
like an all-expenses-paid vacation to the hottest resort in the world. It’s not just demeaning, but it’s frustrating as hell.”
“Or,” she said, sipping down the last of her drink, “you could give yourself a few weeks to take a mental break, relax, and then go at it again. There’s nothing wrong with admitting something didn’t work on the first try. There’s also nothing wrong with taking a breather.”
“Yeah, but the people Jackson hurts…the countries he’s destabilized…they don’t get to have a rest.”
“If you’re not smart about it, you’ll be blacklisted or worse.”
“Mom would have done it in a heartbeat.”
“And,” Margery interjected, her brown eyes serious, “your mom isn’t here anymore. I don’t know about you, but the last thing I want is to lose my best friend. I’ll help you. Hell, I think Harris will help you or he wouldn’t have found a way to keep you on staff. Just go, relax, and stay safe. That’s what matters the most. You can’t help anyone without a platform, and you really can’t help them if you’re dead,” Margery finished.