Take Over at Midnight, the fourth book in my Night Stalkers series and the 20th book I've written, completes the first round of the story. The helicopters featured in the first four books are a pair of Direct Action Penetrator Sikorsky Black Hawks. It is the most weaponized and lethal helicopter ever launched into the night sky. It has four seats, one book each. And in those seats, I have placed four amazing women and had so much fun finding the men they deserved.
The Night is Mine
Captain Emily Beale -pilot, calm perfectionist
Major Mark Henderson -pilot, the commander
I Own the Dawn
Sergeant Kee Smith -gunner, street tough, street smart, and deadly
Lieutenant Archie Stevenson -copilot, quiet, steady, well-born
Wait Until Dark
Sergeant Connie Davis -master mechanic, brilliant, silent
Sergeant "Big John" Wallace -master mechanic, powerful, gregarious
Take Over at Midnight
Chief Warrant Lola LaRue -co-pilot, brilliant flier, wildly extroverted
Sergeant "Crazy Tim" Maloney -gunner, prankster, charms the ladies
The Past Doesn't Matter, When Their Future is Doomed…
Nothing sticks to "Crazy" Tim Maloney, until he falls hard for a tall Creole beauty with a haunted past and a penchant for reckless flying. Lola LaRue never thought she'd be susceptible to a man's desire, but even with Tim igniting her deepest passions, it may be too late now...
With the nation under an imminent threat of biological warfare, Tim and Lola are the only ones who can stop the madness--and to do that, they're going to have to trust each other way beyond their limits...
Before I get to an excerpt, let me just say that the closing of the first cycle of the Night Stalkers is but an excuse to start the second cycle. The series is far from over. I won't give away how it happens, that's part of the story of Take Over at Midnight, but the Night Stalkers will be relaunching in summer of 2014 in two ways!
A new series: Firehawk! New heroes take to the sky in the heliaviation battle against our nation's forest fires. The problem is, that while the forest burns, other dangers arise that only the clandestine arm of the Mount Hood Aviation firefighters can deal with. Pure Heat is coming May 2014.
A new round of the Night Stalkers! The Night Stalkers second type of helicopter takes center stage, the small but lethal Little Bird. When the job is too delicate for the big Black Hawks, that's when the Little Birds come to play. Our heroine teams up with a Navy SEAL in Light Up the Night coming August 2014.
ALONG THE WAY
And if you want the love stories of some of your favorite side characters, don't miss these short novels:
Daniel Drake Darlington III became White House Chief-of-staff in The Night is Mine. When Alice Thompson, one of CIA's top analysts, shows up in his office, his life and his heart soon fly out of control.
Frank's Independence Day
Emily Beale may have flattened the head of the President's Secret Service detail, Frank Adams, during The Night is Mine. It doesn't mean that he isn't the best. But Agent Beatrice Ann Belfour is more than a match for him.
President Peter Matthews' orders has sent our squad of Night Stalkers on every flight. Despite being the world's most eligible bachelor and most powerful man, he is far from prepared when the UNESCO Chief of Unit for the SE Asia World Heritage Center, Kim-Ly Genevieve Beauchamp of French-Vietnamese descent, steps into his office and into his heart.
A BIT OF TAKE OVER AT MIDNIGHT
Inside the Hawk, Lola could make out just enough in the darkness to identify the miniguns in front of both of the crew chiefs who lived their lives facing sideways and craning their necks out the gunner’s windows. If they were using the standard setup, the guy who’d helped her aboard would be a dead-on gunner who could also fix a helicopter blindfolded, and whoever hunched over the right-hand gun would be the chief mechanic who could also shoot better than most people in the Army.
Copilot forward to the left and pilot forward to the right. That was her seat. But it wasn’t. She bit her lip, really hoping she’d made the right choice. She’d given up the pilot’s seat in a combat search and rescue bird to fly copilot in SOAR.
Two years of training before they’d let her aboard for a mission, and that was after she’d already been flying for seven years. She’d thought that was ridiculous when she heard about it. Two years later she wondered if that had been enough time. Even from combat search and rescue, CSAR, the jump to SOAR was like going straight from a tricycle to NASCAR. It had been a hard two years.
“Y’all welcome aboard, Chief Warrant 2 Lola LaRue.”
She could see the pilot turn his helmet slightly toward the gap between his and the copilot’s seat. The voice wasn’t the guy who’d helped her, Tim Maloney. Normally lousy with names, his had stuck easily. That meant it was the pilot speaking.
This guy was clearly trouble. He said her name in the drawn-out slurring way so many had before. Not even the accent was real, faked Texas. Badly faked.
So, if it was gonna play that way, it was time to “pull on her soldier.”
“Yes, sir. Appreciate the lift.”
“Lola LaRue.” He said it again like he was rolling it around on his tongue.
Shit! was the only thought she could come up with. She’d really hoped SOAR was above this. More than hoped, believed. Stupid, girl. Really damn stupid.
“Somebody named y’all that?”
Upbeat and chipper, LaRue. “My daddy. I think he wanted me to grow up to be a stripper.” She’d discovered that taking it head-on was the only thing that worked.
“Looks like y’all’ve done gone and disappointed him and probably many other men besides. ’Specially if you’re even half as purdy as your file photo says you is.” He actually drawled “purdy” into some weird kind of over-Texas-saturated slur.
“Disappointed the hell out of him. And I look way better than my stupid Army photo.” It was true and to hell with him.
A deep chuckle.
She swallowed hard and dug down into her Creole badass, street-girl soul for the serious load of rude she’d be needing to launch. A deep breath to tighten her gut. Okay, here it comes. Stupid joke about maybe a private performance, or maybe just a little one for his crew, or—
“Well done, Chief Warrant. Welcome to SOAR.” His words now sharp and crisp, untraceable except as Army.
Lola had to bite down hard on the sharp retort she had loaded in the chamber and ready to fire. Best she managed was an, “Uh, thank you, sir.” A test of her patience or just messing with her head for the hell of it?
Tim cut back in using an airline voice. “Your pilot tonight is Major Mark Henderson, lovingly called ‘Viper’ by his crew and the few unfortunates who survived—”
“Very, very few,” the pilot offered in his normal voice.
“—facing,” Tim continued without missing a beat, “the wrong end of this bird.”
Major Mark Henderson. Holy crap! This chopper wasn’t a muscle car, this was a notorious weapon of death wielded by the most decorated officer of SOAR. His reputation was sterling. He must have just been teasing her, though he wasn’t known for a sense of humor.
“Your copilot,” Tim continued as if first steward on a 787 full of tourists, getting that bored flight attendant tone so perfect that she had trouble not laughing, “is the famous and dashingly handsome Captain Richardson. For your entertainment in the cabin you are joined by Mr. recently married Big Bad John, really is his name. Scout’s honor. And you thought Lola LaRue was bad. I’m called, by those who know me, Crazy Tim Maloney. John and I are the best crew chiefs in the sky.”
“My wife might have a thing or two to say about that. And those who don’t know you call you odiferous.” Big, deep voice wrapped around a low laugh. Must belong to the massive dude seated before the starboard-side minigun. How did someone that big even fit into a Black Hawk gunner’s seat?
“Ignore him, Ms. LaRue. John’s awesome. It’s that his wife is just plain scary. You’ll be meeting her later. Tonight the Viper, that would be this finest helicopter in the U.S. Army, not to be confused with ‘Viper’ your pilot, will be flying you over such scenic sights as the village of Mehtar Lam—”
“Which you won’t see because,” Big John explained, “though they have electricity, it’s been offline for three days.”
“The pleasant little hornet’s nest of Loy Kalay will be given a wide berth…”
“As they tried to fry our behinds last time we flew over there,” the Major filled in. She could hear the easy closeness of the crew. A team that flew together and fought together.
“We anticipate a quiet flight over Asadabad,” Tim continued, “because we’re going nowhere near it.”
Lola waited for a comment from the copilot, but he apparently flew quieter than the rest of the crew. He had yet to speak.
“Estimated time to arrival is thirty-five minutes, so food and beverage service will be preempted for this flight. Our in-flight movie is an oldie but a goodie about an invisible six-foot-tall heli-pilot who—”
“Viper, this is Wrench.” A radio call came over the headset in her helmet as clearly as if someone had been sitting right next to her, except some of the high end was missing. Encrypted transmission.
“Air Mission Commander Archibald Stevenson III, how’s married life, you old cuss?” Major Henderson’s voice, now filled with bonhomie, didn’t quite hide the professionalism.
“You tell me, Major. Your wife is in it again.”
Were all of these guys married? Slim pickin’s for a girl fresh from training.
“Crap!” The humor was gone. “Heading?”
Already the twin GE turboshaft engines were winding up closer to the yellow line.
“310 will get you on the right track…”
The chopper twisted to the left and roared to life as five thousand horsepower poured into the main rotors before the AMC had even finished speaking.
“…you’re twenty minutes out.”
“Not for long,” she heard the Major growl over the intercom.
“The nearest fast mover is thirty minutes out.”
That meant all of the jets were on the ground tonight.
Lola heard the rotors deepen another couple notes of pitch as he twisted them for more speed, and the turbines spun up to a pitch that she knew was well into the yellow zone. Just barely below redline.
“LaRue, you wearing armor?” Any sign of banter gone from his voice. Pure steel remained.
“Full vest, sir, but not loaded into the flight suit.” Kevlar plates front, back, and under the arms. Itched and rubbed when you were traveling but she’d pulled them on before landing in the “zone.” Armor was just something you did in Iraq and Afghanistan, something you did all the time. She tugged up the back collar so that no one slipped a nasty surprise between the vest and the back of her helmet. But her arm and leg armor was stacked in the bottom of the duffel clipped to the cargo net behind her.
“Best we’ve got. Tim, get her up and running on the M60. Set it on your side. You’re responsible for her.”
Lola considered responding that she was responsible just fine for herself and had been since she’d run away from home at fourteen. But the Major’s current tone of voice made it clear why he was nicknamed “Viper.” At the moment he sounded bloody dangerous. She wasn’t going to mess with that.