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M. L. "Matt" Buchman

On Your Mark (also in audio)

On Your Mark (also in audio)

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When the Presidential motorcade becomes the most dangerous place to be, it’s up to the dogs to save the day.
Jim Fischer and Malcolm the Springer Spaniel love their patrols to safeguard the White House. They walk the fence line, meet the tourists, and hunt the bad guys. Neither one ever searched for more, until now.
Reese Carver raced NASCAR. She abruptly left her front row starting position to join the US Secret Service. The first woman to ever drive the Presidential limo—known as “The Beast” for a reason—holds the President’s life in her hands alone. Or so she thought.
To save the President, the driver and the dog handler must find common ground before their hearts are left in the dust.
[Can be read stand-alone or in series. A complete happy-ever-after with no cliffhangers.]
Buy now to join the dog handler romantic adventure.

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It was still confusing. Major Ivy Hanson—recently promoted to White House Liaison to Marine Corps HMX-1 squadron—didn’t match the woman inside her head. She brushed the cool metal of her golden oak leaves and they were definitely on her shoulders: not Captain, Major. For the tenth time she double checked that the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor insignias on the collar points of her Marine Corps dress blues were fully upright.
They were.
She really had to calm down about this. She was a Marine—though at the moment it felt as if that was the only thing she knew for certain.
The VH-3D White Top helicopter eased out of Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, gaining altitude slowly. The President’s helicopter—which would be designated Marine One if he was aboard—was a strange, anachronistic beast of a machine.
For years Ivy had flown one of the newest helicopter types there was: the massive and highly innovative MV-22B Osprey tilt-rotor. And now she was aboard the President’s vintage helicopter; a fifty-year-old machine that was somehow maintained into a far more perfect condition than her prior ride. The ancient White Top also carried more armor than her MV-22 and was far more luxurious. Instead of the sharp bite of hydraulic oil and unrelenting reek of jarhead sweat, the cabin smelled of lemon furniture polish and fine leather. Which, as a former combat pilot, was wrong on so many levels that it was better not to think about it.
Despite the soothing, air-conditioned, and well sound-insulated environment keeping the heavy load of rotor noise at a comfortable distance, her nerves continued flying sky high just as they’d been ever since she’d gotten dressed this morning.
There was a feel to dress blues that no amount of wear or dry cleaning could remove. From the steam-ironed pant’s crease to its brass buttons to the gold of her major’s oak leaves on her shoulder boards, blues were something special—somehow other. The stiff collar reminiscent of the high leather collar that had earned them the nickname “leathernecks” over two centuries ago was a badge of honor every Marine wore proudly. She always felt stronger, more powerful in her dress uniform. And far taller than she was—which was especially neat as at five-four she didn’t come up to most Marines’ shoulders.
Her full flight gear from her eight years piloting the MV-22 Ospreys came a close second as her favorite clothing, but there was a small and very egotistical part of her that loved the dress blues: all of her service ribbons on display, her aviator wings flying high above them—the Corps in all its righteous glory. No ceremonial sword today, but hers was so short to match her frame that she always felt a little foolish when she brandished it. She was fine without her sword.
But she was sitting in the observer’s seat rather than the pilot’s. That too was intensely disorienting.
A glance aft didn’t reveal thirty Marines loaded for bear or a 155 mm howitzer ready to unleash havoc thirty kilometers past wherever she dropped it. Instead it revealed the President’s armchair, another facing his, and a long bench seat for six aides. Directly behind the President was a seat for his personal aide. And at the back corner, just aft of the rear door, was one last seat for the head of the Presidential Protection Detail. At the moment, Ivy was the only person in the cabin other than the Marine Corps crew chief who sat in the seat closest behind the pilots.
She was seated sideways, instead facing ahead. Coming at her new assignment sideways was okay, as long as she got there.
Because it was exactly where she wanted to be.
***
Rex always wanted to be somewhere else and constantly hauled at his leash to prove it.
Colby guided him down the South Lawn of the White House, leaning back against the leash’s pull. His German shepherd was on the hunt for any hint of explosives and he was one hard-charging canine Secret Service agent.
Rex cracked him up.
He treated sniffing for explosives as if they were the most important thing in the world, which was exactly what he’d been trained to do. The joke was that he was a dog. EDT—Explosive Detection Team—dogs didn’t really care crap about explosives. They just knew that they got a treat if they found some or checked a whole area and found none. Rex was super smart about everything except his treats—which had almost flunked him out of the Secret Service’s dog school. It had taken Colby a lot of work to teach him that giving false positives didn’t earn him more goodies.
Colby scanned the grounds. Two floppy-eared dogs working the outside of the fenceline, checking on tourists. From here he could make out two of the three vans which housed ERTs—Emergency Response Teams of dog and handler. The handlers would be watching everything using binoculars through the tinted windows, ready to release their dogs if needed. Those dogs made Rex look mild by comparison. An ERT dog would go after explosives, but that wasn’t their primary job. They trained to take down fence jumpers—hard. He traded waves with another ERT team strolling the close perimeter around the White House itself.
He and Rex had risen to the top of the puppy pile, earning them the informal title of Lead Dog. Colby had come to enjoy wrangling the various handlers and types of dogs. But his favorite were times like this, when it was just him and Rex checking it all out.
The one thing he’d never let go of as he moved up the ladder was the South Lawn patrol. They’d been doing it together for the last four years of the six they’d been working together. He’d gotten Rex when he was two years old and they trained together then started over at the Capitol. For a while they’d been loaned out to different teams: the Speaker, the home of the Vice President, and visiting dignitaries.
Four years ago they’d made the grade and been advanced to the White House. Now they both had the routine down. Zigzagging back and forth, they crisscrossed any possible path the President could take from Marine One to the White House. Every line from the South Portico of the Residence over to the outside door of the Oval Office.
Even though Colby knew it was just a training flight coming in this morning—he didn’t bother telling Rex or take it any less seriously. Though this flight would be a pain. Some new honcho was coming in on a free ride and their undue pride was always hard to swallow, but Colby timed it just like normal anyway. He and Rex worked their way down the lawn until they arrived in the landing zone itself at the same time as the groundskeepers. They were rolling out the trio of two-meter aluminum disks to protect the lawn by making temporary landing pads for the helicopter’s three landing gear.
A quick sniff by Rex to make sure that the someone hadn’t jumped the fence in the night—undetected by patrols, rooftop snipers, or the array of motion sensors—to plant a bomb under Marine One’s landing pads. It was all clear and the big red disks with their white crosses at the center were flopped into place. Fast work with a tape measure assured the guys that they’d dropped them spot-on to match the helicopter’s undercarriage. A quick glance at the spacing told him they were expecting one of the VH-3D Sea Kings rather than a VH-60N White Hawk, the only two types of aircraft authorized to land on the White House lawn.
“Hey, one of these days, you should set them up for something huge like a Chinook or maybe a tiny Little Bird and see what those flyboys do.”
“You want to piss off a Marine Corps pilot, I’ll leave that to you.” Jonesy, the head of the groundskeepers, grinned at him. He also kept a watchful eye as his crew pinned down two six inch-by-twenty foot strips of canvas in an L-shape that would give the pilots their centerline and final nose position.
“Hell hath no fury like a pissed-off jarhead,” Colby agreed.

Publication Details

Initial Publication: July 31, 2018
Print Pages: 258
Audio length: 7:30
Narrator: Read by Author

Bonus Content

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