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M. L. "Matt" Buchman

Big Sky, Loyal Heart (+audio)

Big Sky, Loyal Heart (+audio)

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No longer serving as a military dog handler, does nothing to prepare a woman for what comes next.
Recently retired as from working with Delta Force war dogs, Lauren Foster sets herself a simple mission: forget about the Army, get back to New York City, and try to become a civilian—three missions she’s doomed to fail.
Film student turned cowboy Patrick Gallagher just keeps moseying through life—until the woman of his dreams threatens to ride off into the sunset without him.
Named for Rip van Winkle, trainee military war dog Rip naps in the Montana sun—while awaiting inspiration.
Now, Lauren must escape before she gets caught by the love of a dog and a man under the Big Sky.
[Can be read stand-alone or in series. A complete happy-ever-after with no cliffhangers. Originally published as #5 in the series because of short stories that are now collected together in a final volume.]
Buy now to join the romantic Big Sky adventure.

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The Montana Front Range was breaking upward, shattering the flatness of the plains.
When the helo pilot announced they were nearing the ranch, Lauren Foster stared down at the flat prairie. The whole transition happened in a matter of ten kilometers—or rather six miles as she was a freaking civilian again. In a matter of six miles the flatness of the Great Plains gave way to the abrupt jolt of the Rocky Mountains.
Henderson’s Ranch lay as a narrow band between the two of gentle hills, abrupt valleys emphasized by the low angle of the morning light, rich grasslands turning brown with the late summer heat, and patches of trees so dark and thick they could be the forest primeval. All the land features were jumbled together as if God had been playing a game of pick-up sticks.
Definitely not the Big Apple, girl.
After far too many deployments into Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, and every other hellhole that Delta Force inhabited, she’d been so ready for a dose of the best city in the world. New York was calling. She’d planned to start at Katz’s with a pastrami sandwich slathered with sharp mustard that bit the nose even harder than the tongue, and a root beer that tickled the throat. Every one of the stupid, touristy things that no local ever did, she wanted to do. Visit the top of the Empire State Building. Take a freaking Circle Line boat trip around Manhattan. Maybe she’d go around twice or three times, just sit with her feet propped on the rail and watch The City go by. Get off downtown to chow down some fresh dim sum with a cold Tsingtao at Jing Fong before she…
Instead, she was a hundred klicks—sixty freaking miles—into the Montana wilderness without flying over a single rinky-dink town since Great Podunk Falls. The grass was unending brown. The cows they were flying over were brown. The buildings were brown. None of the vibrant neon and shining glass of the big city.
It wasn’t as if Great Falls, Montana, was anything more than the closest airport. It was the same twenty-two square miles as Manhattan—and if she stacked twenty-seven Great Falls on top of each other, she’d get the same population density as the Big Apple but still a millionth the character. The Big Apple had started cooking its own unique blend of city in 1624 and no Montana-come-lately could ever hope to compare.
Also, nothing smelled right here.
The air from the helo’s vent system smelled fresh, filled with early September promise rather than pastrami on rye. Though it also didn’t smell like Dustbowl Afghanistan, stinking goat Iraq, desperation Somalia, or any other screwed-up desert she’d patrolled over the years, which was a relief. Even the helo itself smelled fresh-washed with a hint of leather seats—not splashes of Jet A fuel matched with the hard stench of burnt cordite and stinking soldiers who’d been too long in the field. No coppery after-hint of spilled blood either, another plus.
“This is all your fault, Colonel.”
Colonel Michael Gibson, seated beside her in the back of the helicopter, didn’t bother to respond. He rarely did, but he didn’t have to. When the best field operator in all of Delta Force said, “You’re with me,” you went. Even if she wasn’t in the military anymore, she went.
“I was within easy windage of a Nathan’s hot dog!” Coney Island Boardwalk was calling her, too—even now from two thousand miles in the wrong direction. She’d had a ticket home in her hand and a spot all picked out on her brother’s couch. She’d done her fifteen years and was out. Way out.
“Get a grip, Foster.” The colonel’s command was stated with the same calm he always used, whether in the briefing room or under heavy fire.
Get a grip? Yeah, my hands around your throat! But she kept the thought to herself. Besides, it would just piss off his wife sitting copilot. And Lauren liked Claudia Jean, even if she talked almost as rarely as the colonel. Kind, beautiful, blonde, a red-hot helicopter pilot with the Night Stalkers—what wasn’t to like. Her deep-bred warmth a sharp contrast to Gibson’s chill factor. No, that wasn’t right because the man wasn’t unkind, he was just…austere. Like looking up at the Empire State Building until your neck hurt from trying to see the top.
The pilot who’d picked them up in Great Falls was the poster boy for tall, handsome, and retired military right down to his mirrored shades and cheeky grin. Somebody Henderson. Her blood sugar had crashed along with missing a night’s sleep. She only remembered his last name because “Henderson’s Ranch” was plastered across the side of his little Bell JetRanger helicopter along with a painted team of running horses.
He flew like retired military as well. She wondered if he flew this way when he had a load of tourists aboard. She hoped so—especially if he had footage of their faces.
The number of things that civilians didn’t understand about the military, and about what women like her had to do to serve there, made her completely crazy. No matter how she tried to explain, they looked at her as if she was either a cold-blooded killer or a lunatic. The only person she wanted to kill in cold blood was still stationed who-knew-where. He was still on the inside and she was now on the outside, which was just fine with her. Having the civilian-military divide between them provided yet more distance—none of it comfortable. As to being a lunatic? Wouldn’t find her denying it.
Guess what, folks? Out there, life comes by a different measure. Which definitely was going to make her the crazy person in the ever-so-normal civvie world, rather than them being the strange ones so secure beneath their hard-won security blanket, double-shrouded in purposely-head-in-the-sand, ostrich-style naivete.
Thankfully, there wasn’t a person on this flight she had to explain shit to; not even why she’d left. Fifteen years in, eight of it attached to The Unit (as Delta Force called themselves) was enough wear and tear on anyone. The pointless loss of her military war dog had been one straw too many.
Even now she could feel Jupiter resting his head on her thigh. Instinctively she moved her hand to pet the Malinois and stroked…nothing but air.

Publication Details

Initial Publication: November 30, 2017
Print Pages: 268
Audio length: 7:47
Narrator: Read by Author

Bonus Content

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