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I Own The Dawn

I Own The Dawn, August 2012
Night Stalkers #2
by M.L. Buchman

Sourcebooks Casablanca
Featuring: Archie Stevenson; Kee Smith
416 pages
ISBN: 1402258135
EAN: 9781402258138
Kindle: B008B8A6XO
Paperback / e-Book
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"A compelling military romance that vividly captures the complexities of life on the frontline."

Fresh Fiction Review

I Own The Dawn
M.L. Buchman

Reviewed by Maria Munoz
Posted August 15, 2012

Romance Suspense

I OWN THE DAWN is a compelling military romance that vividly captures the complexities of life on the frontline, particularly when it comes to relationships. Though the heart of the story is the developing friendship and romance between First Lieutenant Archie Stevenson and Sergeant Kee Smith, the primary setting, a soccer field in Pakistan acting as a forward airbase, is front and center. I could all but feel the heat and the sand, not to mention the testosterone pouring off the men of SOAR, the Rangers, and the Delta squadron (among others).

Only exceptional woman could hold their own with these guys; the only two women to qualify for SOAR to date are just that. Major Emily Beale (whom we met in The Night is Mine) commands the Black Hawk helicopter to which Kee has been assigned as gunner and sharpshooter. Kee isn't thrilled with being relegated to some girlie-chopper. It doesn't take long for her to realize that Major Beale is a legend for a reason and it's going to take Kee's best to keep up with the team. Archie, Beale's co-pilot, is there to challenge and encourage Kee all while fighting the attraction that leaves him tongue-tied. The two are drawn closer together when they rescue Dilya, a young Uzbekistani girl orphaned by the war. By night they fly dangerous missions, by day they navigate personal and professional landmines that may keep them from discovering what they could be to each other.

Though I OWN THE DAWN leans more heavily towards the military than romance, M. L. Buchman describes military life in fascinating detail while building powerful emotional tension. Dilya's role in the story is fairly substantive and brings heart and a unique perspective. Kee, Archie, and Dilya are united in their need come to terms with their past in order to trust in a better future. Kee's struggles with experiences she would prefer to forget are particularly heart wrenching.

The second book in the Night Stalkers series, I OWN THE DAWN is a must read for fans of military romance.

Learn more about I Own The Dawn

SUMMARY

Kee Smith battled through a difficult childhood to work her way up the ranks of the U.S. Army. When she finally makes it into the elite Night Stalkers, she feels thrilled, honored, and vindicated...until she finds out she's been assigned to the "girlie-chopper" piloted by the only other woman in the regiment.

Kee is determined to show Lt. Archie Stevenson, one of the male co-pilots, that she is just as tough as the guys. Throughout their special mission, Archie doesn't know whether to make love to her or plant her face-first into the dirt. But he'll do whatever it takes to break through that shield Kee wears around her heart.

Excerpt

"There's no way you're assigning me to some girlie-chopper."

Kee Smith had to look a long way up to see herself reflected in the Major's mirrored shades. Well, let him look down into his own damn reflection in her shades and see how he liked it. All he'd see was himself shimmering in the desert heat and the helicopter he'd just rammed down through the dawn sky.

They stood in a baking soccer arena, which was now turned into a baking forward air base out in the middle of the baking desert in bloody baking Pakistan. Already, the tier upon tier of weathered concrete seating focused the blast of light on the bare dirt field like a magnifying glass.

No response. Crap!

Maybe she couldn't read the Major's eyes through those shades, but after six years in the U.S. Army, she could read his silence.

"Sir." Damn. Screwin' up already, Kee. She'd spent the last thirty-seven hours going from one lumpy flight to another to get into the theater of operations. Her reward, a dusty bivouac fifty miles from Afghanistan's brutal Hindu Kush mountains. That part didn't bother her. If President Matthews said the war was here, fine. She came here. But that her new commander turned out to be a stick-in-the-mud, protocol-bound dweeb... That she didn't like so much.

She was dirty, stank worse than after running a tenner with a field pack. Her butt was chapped from one too many hard racks. Sweat dripped down from her bandana in the desert heat. And there wasn't no way she'd done all that to get assigned to some girlie-chopper. She wanted to fly, damn it. Into the bloody fray, not away from it.

Major Chunk-o-Muscle cracked a smile without a single drop of friendly behind it. His flight suit showed rough wear that she knew from experience didn't happen overnight. The handle of his piece, a non-reg Sig Sauer P226, sweet, looked worn too. The silvery aluminum showing through the black anodizing. That took serious use. The hand resting loose beside it had a gold ring; she'd seen him slip it on after he climbed out of the chopper. Common practice. If you were downed, you didn't want anything shiny on you to attract attention.

Of course, the symbol on his finger had never stopped men from hitting on her before; built short and curvy, they all figured she was easy. They all found out fast just how wrong a man could be. Besides she wasn't into married ones, muscley or otherwise. The Army might choose her partners in the air, even if she didn't like its choices sometimes, but she sure as shooting chose hers on the ground.

"Oh, what's wrong with a girlie-chopper?" His deep voice practically laughing at her.

She shrugged her duffel off her shoulder and let it smack, creating a knee-high local brownout of its own in the dust-fine sand. She rested her aluminum rifle case on top of it. Dragging her hands through her jaw-length mop of hair didn't calm her one bit. She still looked dark and tousled in the Major's shades. Shit, didn't matter anyway. Go for it.

"Permission to speak candidly, sir?"

His half-amused nod really ticked her off.

"I fought too damn hard to get here to be slotted in with some cute little public relations fantasy you have in your head, sir. Sure I've heard of Major Beale, goddamn legend and all. But if I end up on her squad, I'll catch no end of flak and you'll be wasting both my time and the Army's. They didn't ship my butt to this forward air base, thirty miles into the middle of nowhere, to form a chick squad." That he'd even suggested it told her what kind of a commander he was and she wasn't looking forward to it.

"They shipped me here because the nastiest battle on the planet is happening just north in the Hindu Kush. I came to kick some serious ass, pardon, sir, not to be slotted by gender. I want, I deserve to be placed because I'm the best at what I do. I belong in a bird like that." Kee pointed over her shoulder without turning. She'd seen the distinctive T-shape of the beautiful chopper, the twin of the Major's own bird, reflected in his shades. The heavy rock ‘n' roll beat of its rotors pounded against her diaphragm before she could hear it.

The Major didn't bother to glance up. "You ready to ride on that?"

"Damn straight."

Now he did look up, a smile impossibly softening his stony face. Mr. Chunk-o-Muscle was Major Handsome as well. Who'd have known with that permanent scowl. She turned to follow his gaze.

Falling down like a hammer out of the crystal blue sky came her baby. A Black Hawk helicopter. And not just any Hawk. It was an MH-60L DAP. The Direct Action Penetrator was the nastiest gunship God ever put on Earth and only the best flew in her. Kee'd almost died of pleasure the first time she saw one. Actually she'd been about to die literally too.

She'd spent five long years bucking her way up from infantry to get aboard. It had taken her three of those to get into SOAR and another two to get through SOAR training. Now she was here, forward operations. She'd done it and now was facing a DAP Hawk. No man had ever made her feel this good.

And this sweet bird wasn't fooling around. Two massive weapons' pylons stuck out from either side of the midsection. On one side she had a rocket pod carrying nineteen birds and a 30 mm cannon just in case they wanted to go mastodon hunting. On the other pylon, another rocket pod and a rack of Hellfire anti-tank missiles, three of which were missing.

Unfriendlies lay pretty close around here. The surrounding town of five thousand people could be hiding anybody. The two crew chiefs still had their hands on the M134 miniguns peeking out of their shooting holes even while they were just a hundred feet up. The chopper was still exposed to the "friendlies" lurking in the town outside the stadium. The Hawk even had the midair refueling probe, which meant she went in way deep. Kee was down with that.

Only one group flew such a bird, SOAR. The Special Operations Aviation Regiment (airborne), the Army's 160th. The Night Stalkers. The baddest asses on the face of the sky. And she was here. She pinched her leg, on the side away from Major Muscle-head. It stung. This wasn't no dream. Wide awake. She'd done it.

They both turned away and covered their faces as a brownout of dust washed across the field, adding another layer to her too-many hours of grime. Once the bird hunkered down, and speech and vision were again possible, she faced him.

"That." She cocked a thumb over her shoulder. "Me." She thumped her chest with a fist. "Sir!" For good measure.

"Done!" Again that hidden laugh. "If you can talk your way past the pilot." He turned on his heel and disappeared into the heat shimmer.

So, all up to her, hunh? Good. Didn't scare her none.

Kee yanked her duffel over her shoulder, grabbed her rifle case, and tromped over to the DAP as her rotors wound down and the dust and sand settled.

Respect. She'd give that a shot first. Respect with a little help. Because, like a good soldier, she had more than one weapon in her arsenal. She tossed down her duffel and the rifle case at the edge of the rotor sweep and made sure her T-shirt lay smooth and tight on her skin so that every muscle and curve showed. Pack ‘n' rack. Six-pack abs and a good solid rack for a chest. On clear display. Her dusky skin, almond eyes, and single blond-streak in dark hair had some kind of magic at knocking men dead. Wasn't why she had it, but it worked.

She didn't tease, it wasn't her mode. If she offered, she meant it and delivered. But having men's brains switch off around her had its advantages. She wasn't gonna be filing a letter of complaint with the chief people designer who'd wired men's brains to blow away like dust in rotor wash whenever they were around her. It just amused her that it worked every damn time.

The pilot climbed down, leaned in to trade a joke with his crew chief, and then headed out from under the slowing rotors. He almost passed her by, but Kee snapped a sharp salute.

"At ease." No salute back.

Crap! Newbie mistake. She jerked her hand back to her side and couldn't help checking behind her, but Major Muscle was gone. She knew better, had been forward-deployed plenty to know better. In the field you never salute a superior officer. Sure way to tell a sniper who to target.

Kee dropped to parade rest, clenched her hands behind her back. Muscled arms and shoulders back focused men on a chest that wowed 'em all. Some civilian women thought they were hot, but there was nothing like a buffed-out soldier babe. And the civilians knew it, too. Wasn't a single civilian chick ever gave her a smile when she entered a bar.

"Sergeant Kee Smith. Best damn gunner you ever met. I want on your ship, sir."

The pilot peeled off his helmet, revealing blue-green eyes and an unruly wave of soft brown hair that she'd bet never stayed under control, no matter how long a woman played with it. He opened the front of his flight suit to reveal a sweaty tee on a slender frame.

"First Lieutenant Archibald Jeffrey Stevenson III at your service. And it's not my ship. You'll be wanting to converse with the Major." His voice so slow and smooth and refined, like a radio announcer on those classical stations.

Then he grinned at her, a saucy, funny grin. Started in his eyes and wandered down to his lips, ending up kind of lopsided. Not Handsome Mr. Major, but it made him look pretty damn cute. She couldn't help but notice that his long and lean had some nice muscle underneath, you'd expect no less from a SOAR.

The Lieutenant, however, didn't even have the decency to rake his eyes down her body. The Major hadn't been able to help studying her frame, she could tell despite the mirrored shades he wore like they'd been welded there. But this Lieutenant somehow managed. Either gay or self-control of steel-like strength. Came down to it, she'd be betting on the latter. What happened when that much self-control let go? Now that could be worth the price of the ticket to find out.


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