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M. L. "Matt" Buchman

I Own the Dawn

I Own the Dawn

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She learned to trust no one—the hard way! Now she must.
“Top 5 Romance of the Year!” – NPR
Kee Smith qualified as a helicopter crew chief, a top sniper, and the second woman to ever make the Army’s secret Night Stalkers. When she chooses her copilot as her next target, he doesn’t stand a chance.
His role as helo copilot and top team strategist always fit Archie Stevenson. Until a pint-sized shooter kicked his world sideways.
When a mission gone wrong threatens to start a new war, they must solve it together—if they don’t kill each other first.
“At the very top rank (of romance).” – Eloise James, B&N Book Reviews
“One of the best military romantic suspense novels this year.” – Romancing the Book
[Can be read stand-alone or in series. A complete happy-ever-after with no cliffhangers. Originally published in 2012. Re-edited 2021 for improved reader experience but still the same great story.]
Buy now to join the military romance adventure.

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“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 before the helicopter he’d rammed down through the dawn sky.
They stood in a baking soccer arena, which was now turned into a baking forward airbase out in the middle of the baking desert close by the bloody baking Afghan-Pakistan border. Already, the tier upon tier of weathered concrete seating focused the heat on the bare dirt field like a hammer.
No response. Crap!
Maybe she couldn’t read the major’s eyes through those shades, but after six years in the US 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, and sweat dripped down from her bandanna in the desert heat. And now she was coated with the fine desert dust raised in a thick, brownout cloud by the major’s landing that was still taking it’s damn time settling.
There wasn’t no way in hell or highwater she’d done all that to get assigned to a girlie-chopper. She came here to fly. 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 helo. Common practice. If you were downed, you didn’t want anything shiny on you to attract attention.
Of course, the symbol on a guy’s 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 quite 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, making choices she sometimes didn’t like, often didn’t like, but she sure as shooting chose hers on the ground.
“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 down, 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 fall 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 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 airbase, thirty miles into the middle of nowhere, to form a chick squad.”
That he’d planned on doing it to her at all 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 up north in the Hindu Kush. I came to kick 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 helo, 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 nearly died of pleasure the first time she saw one. Actually she’d been about to die literally too.

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