NAME: Emily Beale
MISSION: Fly undercover to prevent the assassination of the First Lady, posing as her executive pilot.
NAME: Mark Henderson, code name Viper
MISSION: Undercover role of wealthy, ex-mercenary boyfriend to Emily
Their jobs are high risk, high reward
Protect the lives of the powerful and the elite at all cost. Neither expected that one kiss could distract them from their mission. But as the passion mounts between them, their lives and their hearts will both be risked...and the reward this time may well be worth it.
The first book in M.L. Buchman's military Romantic Suspense series featuring the exceptionally kickass heroes and heroines of the Special Ops Aviation Regiment (SOAR).
The Night Stalkers Series:
The Night is Mine (Book 1)
I Own the Dawn (Book 2)
Wait Until Dark (Book 3)
Take Over at Midnight (Book 4)
Light Up the Night (Book 5)
Bring on the Dusk (Book 6)
Praise for The Night is Mine:
"The first novel in Buchman's new military suspense series is an action-packed adventure. With a super-stud hero, a strong heroine, and a backdrop of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and the world of the Washington elite, it will grab readers from the first page."-RT Book Reviews, 4 Stars
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
The CNN film crew had made it fun. But now...
The laptop stood balanced on a couple of empty, dull green ammo cases for the minigun. Sweaty pilots and crew stood gathered around the computer, waiting for the network to roll the clip.
Captain Emily Beale and her team rushed into the tent from the Black Hawk helicopter landing area, still in their hot, sticky flight gear, helmets clutched under their arms. Just past dawn here, late-evening news back home.
A dozen guys who hadn't been lucky enough to fly that night packed the already baking tent. They wore shorts and army green, sleeveless tees revealing a wide variety of arm tattoos. Some with girls' names, some snakes, some helicopters, all with feathered wings. The men squatted on the dirt and sand that passed for a floor, perched on benches, or stood, feet wide, with arms crossed over muscled chests.
The observation jolted Emily a moment before she shrugged it back into her mind's dustiest footlocker. Just another reminder that the entire female roster of this forward deployment included only one nameher own.
Brion Carlson came on and flashed his famous scowl, cuing his multimillion-person audience that the next clip would be fun, not war-torn hell, not drowned mother of twins, not car pileup at eleven.
Emily's free hand rested on the M9 Beretta sidearm in her holster. Tempting. A couple of 9 mm rounds through the screen might cheer her up significantly. But then they'd all know how she felt. Be hard to laugh it off after that level of mayhem. She knew hundreds of ways to kill a person but how do you kill a newscast? Shooting a laptop didn't meet the ultimate criteria for complete suppression. She scanned the intent faces of her flightmates. Still, a bit of localized destruction held its temptations.
She'd only been in the company for two months. The first week or so, she'd been a total outsider. But as she'd proved herself on mission after mission, she'd gained acceptance, grudging at first, then not. Now, on the precarious cusp of true welcome, this.
"Hot from the fighting front, at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, CNN caught up with Black Hawk pilot Captain Emily Beale as she cooks up a storm for her flight crew. She's the first, and so far the only, female pilot to qualify to fly helicopters for SOAR, the elite 160th Airwing."
"Air regiment," Big John called out. Someone shushed him.
"With the Night Stalkers, as the Special Operations Aviation Regiment call themselves"
"Damn straight," John answered and then turned to scowl at whoever had been foolish enough to try and shush him before.
"she flies, literally, where no woman has flown before."
The clip rolled. A close-up of steak sizzling on a surface so black that it didn't reflect the scorching, midday sun. Odd place to start, but what the hell. The Black Hawk's nose cone covering the terrain-following radar assembly really had been plenty hot to sear a steak. And the meat had tasted damn good. A humorous opening. So far she could live with this.
Then the camera pulled back.
First the nose of her chopper, which was kind of cool. Made a nice surprise for the average viewer.
Then the camera swung toward the person wielding the cooking tongs.
She groaned. Silently. But, damn! She'd given them loads of footage why she flew had answered a thousand probing questions about a woman in a man's world and this is how they started?
Ray-Bans. Blond hair running loose over her shoulders. A trick only Special Forces, SEALs, and SOAR pilots could get away with in all the U.S. military. The elite fighting teams were supposed to wear nonmilitary hair, even mustaches and beards, to blend in wherever they were inserted. SOAR pilots usually did the close-cropped military thing, but not her company. She liked the sound of that, her company. No longer the newbie on the outside looking in.
The laptop image scanned down her body as if she were a model for Playboy or Hustler. This was not what she'd signed up for. At least it would be uphill from here.
She'd made it into the Black Adders, the nastiest and toughest company that SOAR had ever fielded. They belonged to the 5th Battalion, which was the nastiest and toughest battalion, no matter what the other four claimed. That's why the 3rd Black Hawk Company of the 5th Battalion of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) wore their hair long. It made them more like their customers, the Special Forces operations specialists they transported to and from battle. Of course, none of them minded the added bonus of being able to thumb their noses at the establishment they'd give their lives to defend.
The camera continued its slow scan down her body. Army-green tank top. Running shorts and army boots. Standard desert camp gear. She was soaked in sweat, and the clothes clung to her like Saran Wrap. A point the cameraman had made the most of, both on his pan down and back up.
But this wasn't who she was. It wasn't the point of the interview. She flew the most lethal helicopter ever devised by man, and they were turning her into a porn star. Her grip on her still-holstered M9 sidearm grew painful, but she couldn't ease off.
"Em-i-ly!" "Whoo-hoo, Captain!" "Now that's what we're talking about!" The catcalls in the tent overrode the voice-over. Attracted attention from outside the tent. More air jocks drifted in to see what was up. Is that how they thought of her every day? To react would only admit her intimidation. And that door wouldn't be opened for anybody.
She should've shot the stupid screen while she had the chance.
Even on the tiny laptop you could see good muscle definition right at her fighting weight. Not bodybuilder, though she lifted enough weights. Still, she wasn't particularly happy with how she looked. She'd never met a woman who didn't feel that way.
Did guys feel like that? This crowd seemed pretty pleased every time the camera caught one of them. A lot of macho shoulder punching, hard enough to bruise, each time one of them made national television.
The next clip showed her pulling out an emergency foil blanket, good for reflecting away the worst of the sun if you were smacked down in middle of sand dune nowhere. She'd demo-ed how to use one to hide from the sun, even digging it into the sand before disappearing beneath.
But in the next instant, she knew this broadcast didn't go there. Instead they went with her quick origami moment to create a decent solar oven from the foil. Taken her a while to figure that one out back when she flew for the 101st. They jumped to a finished loaf of sourdough bread, from some starter she'd had smuggled in. Not bad. She could live with this. Somehow.
And then the next image rolled.
Not a helicopter or flight suit in sight. How long was this stupid clip anyway? They'd dogged her heels for a full day and this was the best they could do?
Back to the solar oven. The soufflé. They wouldn't. They couldn't. They did.
A whole circle of broad-shouldered, badass flyboys standing around her with their arms crossed over bare, serious-workout chests. A solid wall of shirtless, obviously posed male flesh she'd hadn't even noticed the news crew setting up. Her tiny image on the screen lifted the chocolate soufflé from the makeshift oven. Perfect. And the desert was so frigging hot that the soufflé didn't start its inevitable collapse from cooling until after the camera moved on. The round of applause had tickled her at the time. But on the squidgy, little piece-of-crap laptop, it just made her look like a half-naked Suzy Homemaker in shades.
"Flying into battle, you know her well-fed crew will follow Captain Emily Beale anywhere because she's the hottest chef flying." In the parting shot, a helmeted pilot, visible only as a silvered visor and blue-black helmet, lifted off in a swirl of dust.
Her helmet was purple with a gold-winged flying horse on the side, and everyone in the tent knew it. It remained clamped under her arm at this moment in case they wanted to double-check. She'd had no missions the day the film crew was in camp so they'd shot that dweeb Bronson, of all useless jerks.
That couldn't be the end of the clip. But the wrap shot was perfect, the camera following Bronson high into the achingly blue sky.
All those interviews about her pride as the first woman serving in a man's world.
Not one word made it in.
Descriptions of nasty but unclassified missions that she had been authorized to discuss.
Actually, they hadn't used a single word. She'd never spoken. Just cooked and been ogled.
And finally, to drive the hammer home, they'd used Bronson in his transport bird, not her heavy, in-your-face, DAP Hawk for the closer. When you wanted a joy ride, you called Bronson. When you wanted it done, you loaded up her MH-60L Direct Action Penetrator Black Hawk.
They had to include at least one
"In New York's Bryant Park today..." The laughter drowned out the parade of anorexic women who probably couldn't shoot a lousy .22 without getting knocked on their narrow butts.
She pulled her pistol and let fly at the laptop. The first shot shattered the screen and flipped it off the empty ammo case. The second spun it in midair, and the third punched the computer into the sand.
A dozen guys inspected the smoldering laptop in the ear-ringing silence and then Emily's face as she reholstered the sidearm. A little more mayhem than she'd intended, but she was a pilot first, dammit.
Then, as if on cue, several of the guys fist-pumped the air simultaneously.
"Sexiest chef flying, Captain!" "They got that right!" "Whoo-hoo!"
"Well, your next thousand meals are gonna be damned MREs." She shouted to be heard over the rabble.
They hooted and applauded in reply.
"Cold egg burritos!" The very worst of the Meals Ready-to-Eat menu.
"Ooo!" "We're so scared." "Show us how to make an oven." "Sexiest chef!"
She opened her mouth to offer a few uncouth words about how much they'd enjoyed watching their own lame selves
"'Tenshun!" The deep voice sliced through the chatter like the rear rotor of her Black Hawk through a stick of softened butter. A voice that had sent a shiver down her spine ever since she'd first heard it two months before.
They all snapped to their feet as if they'd been electrocuted. Some part of the laptop still functioned, Carlson's voice sounded into the sudden silence. "At a recent concert, the Rolling Stones"
A booted foot smashed down and delivered the coup de grâce to the wounded machine.
Major Mark "The Viper" Henderson stood two paces inside the rolled-back flap of the tent, one foot still buried in the machine. Six feet of cliché soldier. Broad shoulders, raw muscle, and the most dangerous-looking man Emily had ever met. His straight black hair fell to his squared-off jawline. His face clean shaven, eyes hidden by mirrored Ray-Bans. Rumor had it they were implanted and the major no longer needed eyes.
After two months, she couldn't say otherwise. He always wore the shades when he wasn't wearing a helmet for a night mission.
Even the first time they'd met, as purported civilians at Washington state's Sea-Tac Airport, he had worn them. Coming out of security, newly assigned to the 5th Battalion, she'd known instantly who waited for her. She doubted another person in the crowded airport would recognize him as a soldier; they'd both been trained to blend in. But she'd recognized Major Mark Henderson as if some part of her body had known him for years.
In the tent, he swiveled his head once, the sunglasses surveying the crowd. Every man jack of them knew the major had memorized exactly who was there, what they'd said, what they were about to sayand probably knew what they'd been thinking the moment they exited their mothers' wombs. If they weren't careful, he'd start telling them what they would be thinking about during their last moment on Earth, and none of them, not even Crazy Tim, wanted to run head-on into that level of mind-blower.
"There will be no gender-based commentary in this unit. Understood?"
"Sir! Yes, Sir!" Rang out so loudly it would've hurt Emily's ears if she hadn't been shouting herself.
What People are Saying About This
"These plotlines intertwine in such a way as to keep you in your chair with the book in hand ready to see what happens next..." - Dark Divas Review
"Tender, caring, hot and sweet." - Paranormal & Romantic Suspense Reviews
"A lot of fun, terrific characters who pull you in immediately and never let you go." - The Good, The Bad, and the Unread
"Strong characters, a suspenseful plot and fast pacing to make a very entertaining read." - Reviews by Martha's Bookshelf
"Packed full of action, adventure and romance." - Tyra's Book Addiction
"The secrets, the suspense and the romance just all rocked in every sense of the word." - Romancing the Book