Omega Sector: Under Siege- Book 1
by Janie Crouch
Genre: Romantic Suspense
He was a man on a mission, one that included a beautiful woman and a little girl he'd die defending…
What a serious case of mistaken identity. Ashton Fitzgerald is no unassuming handyman but a highly trained sharpshooter intent on protecting Summer Worrall and her baby daughter. The Omega SWAT member has a debt to pay and he isn't about to let Summer out of his sights.
For someone else has set their own sights on the lovely widow. Her unexpected relationship with Ashton has put Summer and her child straight into a madman's line of fire. Suddenly a mission to make amends becomes Ashton's quest to defend this little family with his very life.
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CHAPTER ONE (1200 words):
“Ashton, it means the world to me that you would come here to fix this first thing in the morning.”
Ashton Fitzgerald, top sharpshooter for Omega Sector Critical Response Division’s SWAT team, had his head and half his large torso under the kitchen sink of a condo unit in Masking Ridge, a community just south of Colorado Springs.
He knew Summer Worrall, owner of said sink, didn’t expect much of a response from him, so he just grunted as he put a little more elbow grease into a stripped nut on her piping.
“I don’t know when it started leaking, but it was definitely bad when Chloe got me up this morning.”
As if in agreement, nineteen-month-old Chloe began gurgling in her mother’s arms and clapping loudly. She obviously wanted to be let down onto the floor to play with Ashton, but Summer was keeping her out of the way.
“It’s no problem,” Ashton muttered.
Actually, it was a problem. He was going to be late into Omega Sector’s SWAT training facility. Not that there would be any true harm in that; the team was just running exercises today unless something real came in. But as soon as they realized why Ashton was late, because Summer Worrall thought he was the maintenance man again, they were going to tease him mercilessly.
They all knew or at least knew of Summer and Chloe. Her husband had been killed in a hostage situation gone wrong nearly two years ago. Then she’d been kidnapped by a psychopath eight months ago in another incident involving the Omega Sector’s Critical Response Division, an elite interagency task force with some of the country’s best agents.
So no one on the team actually begrudged Ashton helping out the young widow. What they found so hilarious was the fact that Summer thought he was the handyman for the entire condo complex.
And Ashton could admit he was a pretty mechanically minded guy. Growing up on his parents’ farm in Wyoming had given him a lot of skills with his hands. He could fix most household problems, given the time and tools.
“I think I’ve got this under control,” he said. “It’s nothing big, just some piping that needed to be realigned and tightened.”
“Oh good. I didn’t want to turn a big, formal request in to Joe.”
Joe Matarazzo, the main hostage negotiator at Omega Sector, who also happened to be a billionaire, owned the condos in which Summer and Chloe lived. That’s how this crazy misunderstanding had started in the first place. Summer had needed a handyman and called Joe. Joe had said he’d send someone trustworthy right over.
But then Joe had an emergency with Omega and asked Ashton if he could take care of Summer’s problem. Instead of calling someone, Ashton had just gone over to Summer’s home himself. He’d had no intention of misleading Summer. Had even introduced himself as Joe’s friend.
Evidently she’d taken that to mean Joe’s handyman friend.
When he’d given her his number, telling her to call him if anything else came up, Summer had taken him up on that offer. Eight times in the last few months.
Now Ashton had no idea how to tell her the truth.
And that wasn’t even the worst secret he was keeping from her. He grimaced and worked his way out from under the sink.
“Okay, I think I’ve got it all fixed under here. I just need to turn your water back on in the basement.”
Ashton pulled himself the rest of the way out from under the sink and stood. He smiled at Summer, trying not to let himself be taken aback again by her beauty. Petite, with rich auburn hair, pale skin with freckles dusting her cheeks and nose. It was colder weather now, but Ashton knew from the tank tops she wore in warmer temps that her shoulders were dusted with freckles, also.
But he definitely did not want to be thinking about her bare shoulders or how he’d love to play connect the dots on them with his fingers or—even better—his lips. Summer wouldn’t be interested in any law-enforcement lips after what she’d been through. Especially his.
“Ah-ta!” Little Chloe squealed and threw herself forward from her mother’s arms, reaching for Ashton. He caught her, taking her from Summer and pulling her to his chest.
“Sorry,” Summer murmured.
“Don’t worry about it.” It happened every time he came by. Little Chloe loved to see him. Not able to say the word Ashton, she’d taken to calling him Ah-ta last month.
“Hey, gorgeous.” He smiled at the baby. “You shouldn’t be so quick to jump out of your mama’s arms.”
He knew he wouldn’t be.
Chloe put both her tiny hands on his cheeks. “Ah-ta.”
“Yeah, but I might not always be there to catch you.” He adjusted his tool belt so her little feet didn’t get snagged on anything. The belt didn’t bother him at all. It was quite similar to the SWAT utility belt he wore in other circumstances.
“Ashton, thanks again for making this your first stop. I’m sure you have other places to be. Other units higher on the priority list than mine.”
He shook his head. “Don’t worry about it. It was no trouble coming by here.”
Summer’s green eyes filled with distress. “You mean you only came here for me? You’re working out of another complex today? I’m so sorry.”
Ashton never knew what to say, so he said as little as possible. “Yeah, I’m working at another complex today.” That wasn’t technically untrue; the SWAT training facility was definitely another complex. “Don’t worry. I never mind coming by here.”
Ugh. Now he sounded like he was about to ask her out for a date. He was sure she’d shut that down real quick.
“I-I just mean…” he trailed off. Was he actually stuttering now? She must think he was a complete moron.
She touched him on the arm. “I understand and I truly appreciate it.” She reached over and tickled Chloe. “This little wiggle worm does too. She always loves to see you.”
“I’ll just take her downstairs with me to turn the water back on. Is that okay?” Chloe was currently playing with his ears. Pulling on them with her surprisingly strong little fingers.
“Sure,” Summer smiled. “Give my arms a break for a few minutes. I’ll put this stuff back under the sink.”
Ashton turned with the baby and began walking down to the basement. He knew where it was from a hot-water-heater problem a few months before. As a matter of fact, for a newer condo, this place tended to have a lot of issues. But he definitely wouldn’t complain.
It gave him a chance to see Summer. Even if it was as the handyman.
Little Chloe began jabbering to him in her baby language, laughing as he bounced her as he went down the stairs. He didn’t know why the little girl liked him so much, but he would take it while he could.
Someday she would find out Ashton was the reason her dad had died. Then neither she nor her mom would want anything to do with him.
USA Today bestselling and award-winning author Janie Crouch writes what she loves to read: romantic suspense, heavy on the romance.
Janie recently relocated with her husband and their four teenagers to Germany (due to her husband's job as support for the U.S. Military), after living in Virginia for nearly 20 years. When she's not listening to the voices in her head (and even when she is), she enjoys traveling, long-distance running, and movies of all kinds.
Her favorite quote: "Life is a daring adventure or nothing." - Helen Keller.
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