Honor Guards




I wrote Above All, Honor as an action/romance novel, and as the series has evolved, it has developed into the story of relationships in a world that is dangerous and often deadly. Because much of the story is set in Manhattan and one of the main characters is the daughter of the president of the United States, it seemed integral to the continuing saga to deal with the events of September 11, 2001.

I agonized over the appropriate time to write about this topic in a work of fiction. Certainly, there will never be a time when the horrific events of that day are forgotten or when the anguish of all who lived through it is assuaged. At some point, the events that occur during our lives become part of the history of the world. Whether we experience those events firsthand or via images and other records, the tragedy never lessens, nor do the memories dim. This book is meant to be neither an explanation nor a resolution of events that are beyond comprehension.

The timeline of 9/11 contained in the book is accurate and based upon Report From Ground Zero by Dennis Smith (Viking Press, 2002); Last Man Down by Richard Piccioto and Daniel Paisner (Berklely Publishing Group, 2002); Inside 9-11: What Really Happened, by the reporters, writers, and editors of Der Spiegel magazine (St. Martin's Press, 2002); and One Nation: America Remembers September 11, 2001 by Life magazine (Little, Brown, 2001).

This was a difficult book to write, to beta read, and to edit due to the intersecting plotlines and the oftentimes difficult subject matter. I am indebted to a superb group of readers and proofreaders: Athos, Denise, Diane, Eva, JB, Laney, Paula, Robyn, Sue, and Tomboy, and to Stacia Seaman, my excellent editor, for their outstanding work and tireless support.

Sheri's covers always speak for themselves far more eloquently than I can, but once again she has found the perfect visual representation of the story. Thanks also to Linda Callaghan for donating the image of the White House.

Somehow Lee finds a way to be supportive, cheerful, and patient even when I am not (which is especially true at the beginning, middle, and end of a new work). For that and all the possibilities she brings to my life, I am beyond grateful. Amo te.

Radclyffe, 2004


To the Victims of 9/11


16 August 2001

The hotelier at the small pensione on Rue Seguier looked up from her newspaper as the door opened to admit two strangers. It was well after midnight—not a usual time for new guests to arrive— but she was used to the unusual in St-Germain, the arrondissement of Paris,long known for its artists, philosophers, trendsetters, and, in recent years, for its tourists. The customs and proclivities of that latter group were often unfathomable, but she had grown used to hiding her rare feelings of surprise or dismay regarding the habits of guests. Nevertheless, this evening, her curiosity was immediately piqued.

Two women in formal evening clothes approached across the expanse of thick carpet. Two far from ordinary women, even for the Left Bank. One was an astonishingly beautiful blond in a shoulder-baring, midnight blue evening dress and matching sequined wrap—very haute couture. Her thick, golden hair was caught back at the nape of her neck and her makeup, subtly and expertly applied, merely enhanced the natural beauty of her large, deep blue eyes and upswept cheekbones. Her mouth was full and lush, as if meant for kissing, or laughter. She was laughing at the moment, the fingers of her right hand curled possessively around the arm of her escort.

That woman, too, was captivating, but in an entirely different way. Slightly taller than her blond companion, she wore a fitted evening jacket and black tuxedo trousers. She was dark where the other was light—not just in coloring, but in the undeniable aura of intensity she projected. Jet-black hair curled just over the edge of her collar in the back, while in the front a wild, unruly wave apparently defied taming as it slashed across her forehead. Her eyes, even from across the room, were dark and penetrating. Whereas the blond carried herself with the agility and grace of a dancer, this sharper, leaner woman glided with the muscular ease of a jungle predator. Each, in fact, projected an air of animal vitality and strength, and together, they were an astonishingly attractive couple.

And a couple they most certainly are. The way they move with one rhythm, the way their bodies just barely touch but are so clearly united oh yes, they 're together.

"Bonsoir. May I help you?"

"We'd like a room, if you please," United States Secret Service agent Cameron Roberts said in perfect French. She glanced at her companion and smiled. "Something private, with a view."

"I believe I have something for you," the clerk replied with a wisp of a smile. She turned and collected a key from a series of wooden pigeonholes behind her. The service in this small hotel, whose decor spoke of more genteel times, was still handled personally as opposed to by computer. There was an air of intimacy in the small foyer, which was replete with ornate wood furnishings and muted chandeliers. "You will be able to see Notre Dame from your balcony. We can also have breakfast sent up if you ring the front desk in the morning."

Cam glanced at her lover with a raised eyebrow as she withdrew her wallet. "Okay?"

Blair Powell shifted until her hip gently rested against Cam's thigh and placed a palm on her lower back. Although they spent nearly all of their waking hours together, they were rarely free to touch. Now she relished each small contact. "Perfect."

They had never spent the night alone together before—not truly alone, when there had been no one outside the door or someone, somewhere, on duty monitoring their location. They had been lovers for more than half a year and had awakened with each other less than half a dozen times. This night, in this tiny pensione in this city of lovers, they were for the first time able to simply be lovers.

"Here you are." The clerk handed a key across the counter to Cam, who filled out the short information card that accompanied it. "The second floor."

"Thank you," Cam and Blair said simultaneously before turning away, hand in hand.

Renee Savard was asleep when the knock sounded on her hotel room door. Rolling over carefully, anxious not to injure her still-healing left shoulder, she peered at the bedside clock. 2:12 a.m.

Coming almost instantly awake after years of having been trained to jump from deep sleep into immediate action, the FBI agent rose rapidly and reached for her robe from a nearby chair. She pulled it on carefully. The gunshot wound to her left shoulder was healing well, and although she had been advised to keep the joint at rest as much as possible, she had eschewed the confining support of the immobilizer after the minimum allowable time. Not only was it difficult to dress while wearing it, she felt helpless and vulnerable with only one functioning arm. A little pain was worth being able to defend herself if the need arose.

A few seconds later, she peered through the security view-hole and then, smiling broadly, quickly released the lock and opened the door. "What are you doing here? I thought you had the duty tonight."

Paula Stark stood in the hotel hallway, flushing faintly but unable to hide her pleasure. She was still in the dark jacket and pants she had worn while on duty as the lead Secret Service agent on Blair Powell's team. Her weapon was secured in the hip holster clipped on the right side of her waistband. Shrugging, she extended her hand, offering a small bouquet of red roses and white baby's breath.

"I just happened to be in the neighborhood."

Charmed, Renee leaned a shoulder against the doorjamb and slowly surveyed the dark-haired, muscular young agent, appreciating as always her clear-eyed, wholesome appearance. "I didn't expect to see you for a while. After all, I'm on leave, but you're here on assignment."

"Is it okay? I mean...I know it's la—"

"Mrnm. It's great." Renee held out her hand for the flowers, which she lifted to her nose, smiling once again. Then she turned aside and gestured to her room. "Come in."

Stark stepped inside the hotel room, her heart fluttering madly. Courtship was something new to her, as was any kind of relationship—and a relationship with a woman hadn't even been on the horizon for her a year ago. But the day that Renee Savard had been assigned to temporary duty on Blair Powell's security team, all that had changed.

In the midst of the manhunt for a deadly stalker who had threatened Blair's life andnearlycostthe commander hers, Stark had discovered how very much she wanted this one particular woman. They had come very close to consummating their relationship little more than a week before.

"I can't believe you just volunteered to work another night. What is that—three in a row? " Renee definitely had a threatening look in her eyes as she crossed the living room to stand in front of Stark.

"Two—well, two and a half, I guess, butldidn 't volunteer for last night, " Stark said quickly in self-defense.

"Getting stood up two nights straight could seriously bruise my ego, you know. "

"Well, it's kind of a triclcy situation since the commander and Egr—uh, Blair are trying not to be too obvious about spending time alone together, " Stark began seriously. "It's easier if I—"