Soldier of Fortune by Shelley Munro

The charter flight from Jordan to Iraq was a short hop but plenty long enough for Joanna “Mac” McGregor to second-guess her decision to take up a contract in the security sector with Chesterton UK. The wheels of the plane hit the runway, a solid thump before the pilot applied the brakes. Tension seeped into hands holding a fantasy paperback, turning her knuckles white.

It wasn’t just her. Even the guys at the back of the plane—the ones who had bantered their way through the entire journey and tried to tempt her into joining the Mile High Club—fell silent. Mac stared out the window. She’d seen the stark reality of Baghdad firsthand when the plane circled the runway to land—the endless sand giving way to the greener city.

Checkpoints. Security forces. Burned-out vehicles, buildings damaged by both allies’ and insurgents’ bombs.

Too late to change her mind and return to New Zealand now.

She’d gone through the lengthy interview process, answered all the questions about why a woman would want to undertake such a dangerous assignment and finally signed on the dotted line. After all, not much call for her skill set in an office and she couldn’t earn this sort of money doing anything else. Icy determination to succeed curled through her gut, squared her shoulders.

Mac disembarked with the rest of the security force, a few intrepid reporters and a camera crew, the initial blast of heat when she walked down the stairs sucking her lungs dry. Sweat broke out over her body and her shirt soon clung to her clammy skin. Something she’d become used to quickly. After formalities, she waited with the other recruits—the new ones and the others who had signed on for a second or third tour.

Like her, they were in it for the money, some for the adrenaline rush. Some of them would return home to family and friends. Some would die. Time would tell which camp she fell into.

The only route into the city, dubbed Route Irish by the Americans, was the most dangerous stretch of road in the world. Despite the fences on both sides of the road, there were dangerous overpasses and numerous car bombs planted to snare the unwary. From the briefing, Mac knew they’d attempt to drive straight through any situation, be it bullets or bombs. Stopping wasn’t an option.

Five minutes later, they pulled out in convoy, protected by security forces from New Zealand and the United Kingdom, their driver pausing to wait while a United States military convoy crossed the road ahead of them. Overhead Mac watched two Black Hawk helicopters drawing fire, diverting it from the road. The entire time their car remained in radio contact with others from the convoy. The drivers and guards constantly assessed risk, on the lookout for threats.

Mac stared out the window, gut jumping because she knew danger lurked around every corner. Signs at the checkpoint authorizing lethal force brought home the reality of her situation. If she found herself in the wrong place at the wrong time, she would die. No one left to look after her father then. She scowled at the thought and shoved it away.

Their convoy drove past the International zone, patrolled by the US military, the only part of the city considered relatively safe. They didn’t stop, their destination the less-secure area where many security forces and their clients lived.

The Red zone—her home for the next six months.

Mac climbed from the rear of the armored vehicle, grabbed her gear and followed the other recruits into the main barrack-like building. All the domestic comforts, Mac thought, taking in the mismatched furniture, the clean but scuffed linoleum floor and the poster of a busty blonde hanging drunkenly on the far wall. She dumped her bags at her feet.

A tall, dark-haired man prowled through a doorway on her right and headed to the front of the room, his piercing blue eyes taking in the new arrivals. Mac’s breath caught the instant she glimpsed his face, hurled back to the past.


Shock drop-kicked her square in the gut. Why wasn’t he at home in New Zealand? Only her military training kept her face impassive, the astonished gasp trapped inside her throat. Her training did nothing to halt the images flooding her mind, the memories of hard muscles beneath her questing fingers and the way it had felt each time his cock plunged between her legs. Damn, Louie had lied to her.

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