Under Fire By Zoe Normandie
General Release Date: 3rd May 2022
Word Count: 70,719
Book Length: SUPER NOVEL
ACTION AND ADVENTURE
BONDAGE AND BDSM
MEN IN UNIFORM
Warren Cameron doesn’t stop. A Navy SEAL leading chief, he works damn hard and expects the same of his men. Yet, his hardcore mentality has got him losing touch with his troops, sinking morale. That can’t fly, but he can’t seem to fix it.
An opportunity falls across his lap—his cleaning lady, Alisa Kelly. She’s new, she’s game and he doesn’t fail to notice her long, tanned legs as she reaches to dust. A heated struggle opens the door to a mutually pleasing deal. For one week, he’ll pay her to give him the girlfriend experience, help him attend some work parties that he’d otherwise hate and be a more personable boss. Everyone wins.
Somewhere in there, Warren finds himself enjoying the company of the mysterious Alisa a little too much to be safe. What’s supposed to be a sexy pre-deployment fling becomes something else entirely. She’s the type of enigma he can’t resist, even knowing that they’ve got an expiration date.
Electric chemistry drives Alisa to do the unthinkable—fall into what she ought to run from. But Warren’s strong, dominating presence makes her feel something she hasn’t in a long time, not with her head stuck in a textbook, studying for med school final exams. Warren makes her feel protected, adored. With her controlling, jerk fiancé on the opposite coast for a spell, she lets down her hair to live a little, sinking into the short, secretive affair.
What he doesn’t know…can’t hurt her.
Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of violence and a murder by self-defense.
“No, I am already cleaning three houses.” Alisa Kelly ran her golden-brown fingers around the edges of the note that had been handed to her by her manager. Analyzing the property details, she shook her head upon hearing the woman’s challenge.
“You don’t want an extra hundred bucks a month, then?” Maria asked. “This will be a regular client.”
“I don’t have time for more work.”
“This client is rarely home. He’s usually away for work, so you won’t have to deal with people.”
Maria, a middle-aged lady with dyed eggplant-colored hair, leaned back in her white office chair, something twinkling in her eye. She waited for Alisa’s next move.
Alisa frowned, tossing her long black hair behind her shoulder.
Maybe it wasn’t so bad. Three-bedroom home in a gated community. No kids. No pets. She grazed her teeth over her bottom lip, thinking. She did need the money, but she needed time for her studies as well. Skipping out wasn’t an option, even for a few hours, not if she wanted to get licensed the following month.
“Look… Try it out once, and if you can’t manage, I’ll give the job to someone else, okay?” Maria said as she shuffled papers on her desk. It was her typical signal that the meeting was concluded.
Alisa arched her eyebrow. The cost of her exams flashed before her eyes. Those things weren’t cheap, and the last thing she wanted to do was put her hand out to beg for money. She was almost at the finish line.
“Fine.” Alisa pushed herself up and out of her chair, stuffing Maria’s note with the address into her purse.
She’d have to find a way to make it work, which was what she’d been doing for the past four years anyway. Buried in a textbook most of the time, all she’d done was study, work and study some more.
Maria shot her a self-satisfied smile, grinning like the cat that had eaten the canary. It was the look she gave when she was up to something. Running a property management company, Maria was the sharp-as-hell businesswoman and motherly figure—always watching out for Alisa like she was her daughter. Damn right, Alisa had endless respect for Maria’s business acumen and, frankly, her sheer nerve—the type that Alisa hoped to grow over the years.
“One last thing”—Maria reached behind her desk and pulled up a used shopping bag—“the client is expecting our services this morning.”
“This morning? Like, right now?”
“Like, right now. I promised him.”
“No”—Alisa waved her hands, unwilling to bend—“I didn’t wear clothes to clean in. This was supposed to be my study day.”
“We work around the clients’ schedules, my dear. You know that.” Maria tossed the bag at her, a devilish glare in her eyes.
Catching the squishy bag, which clearly had clothing inside, Alisa knew without a doubt that Maria had a game plan. And when Maria was conniving, it wasn’t good. The matron stiffened her spine, shooting Alisa the ‘don’t defy me’ expression.
“God, fine. You owe me,” Alisa said.
It sure as hell wasn’t how she’d wanted the day to go—but jobs were scarce, let alone ones that were flexible enough to work around her demanding schedule. So, Alisa did what she had to do. Tucking the bag under her arm, she spun and strode toward the office door.
“Enjoy,” Maria said.
The matron’s self-satisfied chuckle forced Alisa to turn back, perplexed. Maria then offered a wink, validating all Alisa’s concerns.
“Let’s get this over with,” Alisa grumbled to herself as she exited.
She took a deep breath and pushed out of the small building toward the parking lot. She had to get the job done fast if she had any designs on studying how voxel pixels were made to be proportional to the sum of the attenuation coefficients.
The drive across the city toward the Bixby Hill gated golf community could have been a lot faster if Alisa hadn’t been slowed down by at least ten car accidents on the way. It was unbelievable how slow LA traffic could be, even considering it was just past morning rush hour. Signing in at the golf community’s security post as the house cleaner, Alisa silently huffed that she didn’t have time to change at a coffee shop along the way. Side-eyeing the lumpy bag of clothes provided by Maria as she drove into the beautifully manicured neighborhood, Alisa regretfully accepted that she was going to have to change at the house.
That wasn’t something she liked to do. God only knew the type of people who lived there.
Her clunky silver economy car—too old to be nice, too new to be vintage—brought her to the address provided, making a strange new noise that drove an embarrassed flush up Alisa’s cheeks. The car was beginning to whine like a dying rhinoceros. She groaned quietly to herself, wishing her entrance could sound a little less conspicuous—a little less helpless. She shouldn’t have ignored that check engine light for so long.
She parked in the driveway next to an expensive-looking navy-blue pickup truck, turning her car’s engine off as quick as possible before the damn thing blew. She grew a little more anxious as she drank in the beautiful stonework and natural wood finishes on the outside of the sizable home she was approaching. Who the hell is the client?
With her bag of mystery clothes in one hand and her black purse in the other, she walked up the three stone steps toward the front door. That was always the hardest moment—meeting the client for the first time.
Her hand trembling, she outstretched it to ring the doorbell, but oddly, the door flung open before she got there. She shuffled back, drinking in the mouth-watering physique filling the frame of the wide doorway—the type of male specimen she’d only seen in movies.
“You the cleaner?” The man smoothed back his vibrant auburn hair, leaning into the frame.
Tall and intimidating, he was adorned by rippling muscle, broad shoulders and a big chest. Clearly impatient, he narrowed his gorgeous crystal-blue eyes on her, waiting for her reply.
She stuttered out nothing, shifting foot to foot, eventually choking out real words.
He opened the door fully, beckoning her inside with exposed tattooed arms, which appeared tanned and weathered. As she fumbled behind him, she inhaled that noticeable smell of a new home alongside distinct traces of leather and pine. His house smelled…amazing. The man paced into the hall, shooting her a quick side glance.
“I’m Warren,” he said, crossing his arms and looking her up and down from his great height…assessing, judging. His face was stone cold, if not strong and perfectly aligned.
She tried to smile but felt stiff. That was par for the course for her.
Wasting no time, he nodded to a closet on the side of the hall. “Everything you need should be in there.”
“Oh, okay,” Alisa murmured. Holding the bag of clothes so tight, like a safety blanket, she warily eyed the most perfect-looking man she’d ever seen.
He peaked his eyebrow, clearly trying to draw a conclusion, like was she human or was she an alien?
Alien, for sure.
Alisa cast her eyes down, the only way she could return to the task at hand. The job. She needed to get at it and change her clothes. She refused to clean in the only jeans she owned that actually were decent enough to wear in public. She bit her lip, flashing her gaze back up at him. Should she ask to use the washroom?
“Need anything else?” he asked, as if sensing her unease. The way he studied her was sharp and quick. Under his gaze, she felt a tension coiling inside her, a pressure—but was sure it was one-sided.
“C-could I use the washroom?” Alisa squeaked, following up with a mumbled “Please.”
Warren shot her a sly grin, widening his mouth, showcasing a row of white teeth. He motioned to another door in the hallway beside him. Relieved, she started heading in that direction, moving a little closer to him as she did.
“Help yourself. I’ll try to stay out of your hair…”
She halted, just a foot in front of him.
His gaze drifted from her long black hair, falling loosely over her shoulders, to her waist—kept trim from being overworked and underpaid. The unexpected twist in their interaction—from awkward to heated—nearly sent Alisa backward. She felt dazed.
But she composed herself, thankfully, and scurried into the washroom.
Only once the door was shut behind her did she let out a breath, that apparently, she’d been holding for far too long. This guy… He isn’t the type I’d anticipated running into, she thought as she yanked the lumpy clothing out of the bag. She tore off her jeans and tried to figure out what exactly Maria had sent her with. There was something that looked like a white T-shirt, but then she realized it wasn’t. It was a pair of bright white shorts. Shorts?
Looking in the long bathroom mirror, Alisa held them against her semi-nude golden-brown body. Sure, it was a hot LA summer, but the stretchy shorts looked like they’d barely cover anything. Panic seared up her throat. Holy hell. What is Maria up to? Alisa again dug into the bag and found that there was also a stringy white tank top. It looked like someone’s hot yoga outfit—not an outfit that lent itself to modesty.
Immediately, Alisa flipped out her cell and texted Maria, sending her a pic of the outfit.
Are you setting me up?
Shit—I gave you the wrong bag. That’s my yoga bag!
I’m so sorry, girl. I’ve got the other bag here. I’ll drive it to you.
That will take an hour. I can’t just wait here for that long!
He’s not going to bite…really.
Please. How well do you know this guy?
Well enough… Give him a chance.
“You okay in there?” Warren grunted from the hall.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck.” Alisa chewed to herself, widening her dark eyes into the mirror.
“Yes, sir. I’m good,” she called back and realized her fate was sealed.
It’s too late to run.
So, she did the only thing she could do. She sucked it up and buckled in. This is what life has come to, she grumbled to herself silently as she threw on the ridiculously skimpy hot yoga shorts and matching tank top and stuffed her jeans and shirt into the shopping bag. She looked like she should be serving drinks at one of LA’s hottest bars, much to the appreciation of a sea of men—something totally foreign to her. She’d killed off that sexy, fun side of herself long ago, her intense ambition driving her to focus on only one thing—her growing collection of textbooks.
With the words no, no, no running wild through her mind, she tried to breathe, pulling back her hair into a high ponytail that kissed her back and browned shoulders. Alisa shook her head, contemplating herself in the mirror. She nervously toyed with the long, thin gold chain around her neck—falling low, down the line of her cleavage. The ring on the end of the chain seared into her breasts.
I shouldn’t be doing this.
Hoisting the bag over her shoulder, she put on a fake confident smile and pushed her way back out into the hallway, only to release it when she realized that Mr. Perfect wasn’t waiting there for her. Thank God. She let her mouth drop into a neutral hyphen, absently flinging the bag holding her jeans onto her purse and went searching for that damn cleaning closet.
It was time to get to work and pretend that no part of her was secretly enjoying sharing air with that terrifyingly perfect man.
About the Author
I’m a mom with three sweet young daughters. I have three jobs – mom, author, and analyst. Years ago, I grew up in a military family, went to a military university, worked alongside the military as an intel analyst, and my husband is (surprise!) a veteran. I’ve tried to write for anyone who wants to feel what it’s like to be with someone from that world – with all the good and the bad.
My heroes are grounded in reality, and are inspired by guys I know in the special forces. Guys who’ve been in combat, tasted war, and fought for what they believed in. They are really heroes, but raw and rough and broken in their own ways.
My heroines similarly come from the best parts of the women I know, and the challenges we all face. The relationships that they fall into have familiar characteristics for many, myself included. These heroines represent all of us, with our good and our bad laid bare.
In my stories, I illustrate, romanticize, and celebrate the harsh realities of duty, service, and sacrifice.
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