Pushing the Limits

Titles by Jennifer Snow

Beyond the Cage Series

Breaking Her Rules

Fighting the Fall

Pushing the Limits

Pushing the Limits

Jennifer Snow

InterMix Books, New York

AN IMPRINT OF PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE LLC

375 HUDSON STREET, NEW YORK, NEW YORK 10014

PUSHING THE LIMITS

An InterMix Book / published by arrangement with the author

Copyright © 2016 by Jennifer Snow.

Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

INTERMIX and the “IM” design are trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC.

For more information visit
penguin.com
.

eBook ISBN: 978-0-698-40898-2

PUBL
ISHING HISTORY

InterMix eBook edition / March 2016

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Version_1

Chapter 1

This would be a lot easier if she wasn't visualizing her own death.

“Just let go. I'll catch you.”

Colby Edwards shot a glance toward the safety net twenty-three feet below. She'd rather take her chance with the net than her cohost on
Get Fit Las Vegas
, Dylan Chase, who was swinging fearlessly from a trapeze across from her.

She was going to be fine. She could do this. She'd already transitioned to hanging by her knees and was currently swinging upside-down. All she had to do now was let go . . .

Instead, she gripped the bar tighter with her legs.

No freaking way. She couldn't do this.

Dylan swore under his breath and shook his head as they swung away from each other and back toward their respective platforms.

“Come on, Colby! You've been up there for almost twenty minutes! We need to film this shot and be done for the day,” the show's associate producer and cameraman, Jack, yelled from down below.

On the nice, safe ground.

“Why don't you come up here and do it,” she mumbled under her breath as she found her footing on the platform.

“I thought you were an athlete,” Dylan chided, across from her.

She was. But she preferred sports that kept her feet on the ground. A high school runner, and black belt in Jiu Jitsu and Karate, she wasn't afraid of much. Heights were the exception. “Who came up with this idea, anyway?” she called as she motioned for her instructor to recheck the safety lines fastened to her harness belt. They seemed a little loose.

The young girl failed to hide her annoyance as she checked them. “The safety lines are fine. But you've been up here so long that the harness will start cutting off circulation to your legs soon.” The girl with the body of a Cirque du Soleil performer did little to ease Colby's nerves. Colby already suggested the instructor do the demonstration with Dylan, but that wasn't what
Get Fit Las Vegas
was all about.

The local television segment was designed to encourage the average person to get out and be active within the city.

As if the average—
sane
—person was going to pull their butt away from the latest Netflix series to try something like this.

“Colby, this is the last attempt,” Jack yelled.

What he really meant was last
chance
. Her refusal the week before to participate in the pole-dancing fitness classes had put her on thin ice already with the producer. But when she'd accepted the position three months before, she had expected the late-night, low-rating community programming show to focus on hiking, swimming, jogging. You know, normal physical activities, not antifeminist or extreme sports.

She'd been a serious journalist three months ago. Now she was reduced to flying through the air in skintight clothing to keep a job she really didn't want.

“Ready?” the girl asked.

“Not really, but I better get this over with,” she said, pulling her shoulders back and grabbing the fly bar.

“Jump when you're ready,” the girl said, uninterested.

Without thinking, Colby pushed off of the platform and swung out over the net. She hitched her knees between her hands and wrapped her legs over the bar. Then letting her arms fly, she reached for Dylan, swinging toward her from the opposite direction.

Please catch me, please catch me . . .

Closing her eyes, she let go with her legs and a second of terror later, she felt Dylan's hands around her wrists.

Oh, thank God. She released a sigh and opened her eyes as she wrapped her hands around his wrists and they swung back and forth.

“What do I do with her now?” Dylan yelled.

“We got the shot. You can drop her,” Jack said.

Drop? Wait—what? She tried to reach for his arms as he let go. The free fall from hell nearly brought on an anxiety attack until her butt hit the net and she bounced several times.

Huh. That wasn't so bad. She'd rather clean toilets in the men's washroom at the television station than do this stunt ever again, but it was over. She struggled with her balance as she crawled to the dismount area of the net, where the instructor helped her down and unhooked her harness. “Nothing to it,” she told Jack.

“Okay,” he said, rolling his eyes as he put the camera equipment in the back of the lime-green minivan. The
Get Fit Las Vegas
logo was written in fuchsia across the side and a picture of her and Dylan disappeared behind the sliding door.

During the last month, someone had graffitied the van and now her smiling face was a toothless grin and she sported a unibrow, not unlike the one she'd hated all through junior high.

She pulled a sweater out of her bag and put it on. Behind her Dylan was flirting with the young trapeze instructor. When he joined her a second later, she said, “Did you even make sure she was legal before taking her phone number?”

“She's twenty-four. Jealous?”

“Of what?”

He turned to stare at the young girl as he said, “The fact that she's four years younger than you and has a tight little body . . .”

She covered his mouth. “Please shut up. I don't care who you sleep with.”

He licked her palm and she yanked her hand away, wiping it on her shorts. “You're disgusting.”

“You
hate
that I've seen you naked, don't you?”

“More than I hate cruelty to animals,” she said, also hating the fact he kept bringing up that lapse in judgment she'd had a few months ago when they'd first met. She'd just moved back to Las Vegas and had accepted the job on
Get Fit Las Vegas
and the two had been commiserating about the lack of respectable reporting opportunities in the city, and then, five tequila shots later, they were at his place, tearing each other's clothes off as if that might solve something. It hadn't, and it had made working together on set that much more awkward.

He laughed. “Let's go grab a coffee,” he said, wrapping an arm around her shoulder.

She shrugged it off, with a quick glance at her watch. “I can't. I'll see you back at the studio for editing.” She headed across the parking lot toward her car and, turning on the vehicle, she cranked the air-conditioning. Las Vegas August heat was killer, and the blazing sun heating up the dash and making her steering wheel too hot to the touch was one thing she hadn't missed, living in Seattle the last five years.

Unfortunately, she'd missed too many other things, including her family, and when her father had a heart attack six months before, she knew it was time to move back home. Life was too short, and the thought that her father could have died and she wouldn't have been there had been enough to convince her to sell her apartment in Seattle, quit her job at the studio, and make the long drive back to Las Vegas. While there had been no more episodes with her dad, the heart attack
had aged him and he was showing his sixty-eight years. The gray streaks at his temples had taken over his dark hair and the thin lines around his eyes were now deep wrinkles. She'd made the right choice moving back. Even if she had given up so much to do so.

She slid her sunglasses on and headed toward the studio. Her nervousness of being twenty-three feet in the air had momentarily helped her forget about her eleven o'clock meeting with her boss, who was also the executive producer of Knock Out Sports, the local sports station.

One of their news reporters for their MMA show,
Against the Ropes
, was going on maternity leave in two months, and they were looking for a temporary replacement. It was the first opening within the studio since she'd been there and she'd pounced on it.

She knew a lot about MMA, having trained and competed in Jiu Jitsu and Karate since she was five years old. She also had a master's in journalism from Columbia, a sports broadcasting diploma from Arizona State, and experience working on one of Seattle's evening sports shows,
Locker-Room Chat
. She was more than qualified for the position.

Now she had to convince Ari Connolly of that.

Two hours later, she sat across from him in his fifteenth-floor corner office. Floor-to-ceiling glass windows provided a spectacular view of the Las Vegas Strip in the distance, but the close proximity to the airport caused her momentary panic whenever low-flying planes passed over the building after takeoff. She didn't have that issue, as her own office was a tiny cubicle in what was referred to around the studio as “The Pit”—a thirty-by-thirty-foot space, with sixteen reporters crammed in close quarters.

She swallowed hard and wiped her damp palms on her charcoal pencil skirt as she waited for him to finish whatever he was doing on his computer. Six minutes and counting, after leaving her waiting in the reception area twenty minutes past their scheduled meeting time.

One she had to practically beg for. She shifted uneasily in the chair and pushed the thought aside as she continued to wait.

She'd witnessed Ari's rudeness with other employees, but he was the head of Knock Out Sports and the executive producer of the studio—and the man she was hoping to secure a promotion from—so she let it slide. She'd only ever been in his office once before, the day he interviewed and offered her the
Get Fit Las Vegas
cohost position on the spot. All of the studio's weekly meetings were held in the downstairs boardroom and she dealt directly with Jack, her show's associate producer on everything, so she'd had no reason to request a one-on-one meeting with the man until now.

She scanned the sparse office décor. It was a five-hundred-square-foot office—almost as big as her apartment—and
only a desk, a file cabinet, and several chairs inhabited it. Her office in Seattle had been half this size, yet she'd managed to move a treadmill desk and yoga equipment into it for a midday workout.

She suppressed a sigh, thinking about the junior reporter who'd been promoted three seconds after she'd handed in her notice and was now enjoying her former fantastic view of downtown Seattle
and
her fantastic career.

She straightened in the chair. This position would be fantastic too, and it was in Vegas, near her family.

She continued to wait, but another three and a half minutes later, she felt her annoyance start to rise. Why make an appointment time and then keep the person waiting? If she weren't so desperate for the position, she'd walk out. She cleared her throat.

Finally, he turned to look at her. “Done,” he said.

She forced a smile as she waved a hand. “I understand. You're a busy man.”

“Well, actually I was setting my football-fantasy-league lineup.” He frowned and glanced at the screen. “Wait, just give me another second.”

She suppressed another sigh. She'd heard the studio executive took his position lightly and that he was rarely in the office. She was used to working for a hands-on studio head. She wasn't sure if working for Ari would be the best fit.

But an image of her flying through the air on a trapeze flashed in her mind and she leaned forward in the seat, glancing at the computer monitor. “Would you like a second set of eyes on it?” she asked.

He glanced at her. “You know football?”

“Very well. I've been a Cardinals fan since I could hold a foam finger. Let me see,” she said, standing and moving around his desk to study his lineup. “Ari's Ballbusters?” she asked, raising an eyebrow at the team's name.

“It wasn't my idea,” he said.

She scanned the lineup. Oh, jeez. The guy had three kickers and no running backs. “May I?” she asked, reaching for the laptop.

He hesitated. “Are you sure you know football?”

“Better than you,” she mumbled. Just because she had breasts didn't mean she couldn't memorize sports stats like any of her other, penis-wielding colleagues.

“Oh, really?”

After she'd rattled off enough football stats to put even the players themselves to shame, he nodded. “Impressive. Go ahead.” He handed over the laptop and three minutes later, she'd created a dream-team starting lineup for him.

“There you go.”

He scanned it quickly. “Isn't Marshawn Lynch injured?”

“Nope. That was last season. He's playing great this year.” She sat back in the chair across from him and smiled. “So, about the maternity-leave position as news anchor on
Against the Ropes . . .”

He leaned forward. “Right. Well, I have to say, I was kind of surprised you wanted to see me about that.”

He shouldn't be. “Oh?”

“Yeah, I mean you just started working here a few months ago.”

Was he serious? Had he even glimpsed the résumé she'd forwarded to him the day before? Did he remember the conversation they'd had when he'd interviewed her—where she stated her desire to move up as quickly as possible? She swallowed all trace of an attitude as she said, “Yes, sir . . . but as per our conversation and as outlined in my résumé, I am looking to advance into an anchor role as soon as possible.”

She wasn't sure if he was really paying attention as he checked his watch. “Well, Human Resources posted the position internally first, and we are hoping to fill it without going to outside applicants, so if you want to forward your résumé to them . . .”

She already had. And luckily she'd come prepared. Opening her day planner, she removed another copy and placed it on his desk. “I sent it to them yesterday. Here is another copy for you. As you can see, I have five years' experience working as an anchor . . .”

He was nodding, but he wasn't looking at the résumé . Instead, he asked, “What kind of field experience do you have?”

She blinked. “Field experience?”

“Yes. Sourcing your own stories.”

She sat back, thinking fast. The truth was, she'd only spent six months working as a junior reporter, researching stories and finding new ones, before she'd been promoted to anchor. Then she'd reported the stories and interviewed experts. She hadn't been in the field for quite some time. “Um, I started as a field reporter, but I quickly moved up to anchor.”

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