RADCLY f FE
The Honor series began with the idea that it would be tun to write about a Secret Service agent who fell in love with her protectee. It was the perfect recipe for romance: political intrigue, an inherently dangerous personal situation, and a forbidden relationship all rolled into one. Above AH, Honor was conceived as a stand-alone, but the ending of that book was clearly just the beginning. I have been asked if writing a series is easier than writing a stand-alone. The answer is that it is not easier, just a different kind of challenge. The individual characters change from book to book as we explore the ever-increasing depth of their personalities and relationships. The cast of characters expands and circles back, always drawing energy from the central pair. Without Blair Powell and Cameron Roberts there would be no series, but this has become much more than their story. It has become the saga of friends, lovers, and a country in the midst of change. I am honored to have so many readers share in this journey and ask for more.
Thank you to my editors, Ruth Sternglantz and Stacia Seaman; my readers and proofreaders: Athos, Connie, Denise, Diane, Eva, Jane, JB, Mary, Paula, and RB; my many Internet supporters on the Radlist, and Helen, who began the list and has kept it going all these years. A big, big thanks to Becky and Janette at Bella Distribution for getting the books out day after day.
Sheri surpasses my expectations each and every time with her ever-evolving vision. I am grateful to have her covers grace my books.
Lee stands always ready to encourage, cajole, and occasionally browbeat me into believing that I still have stories to tell. Her belief in me is my daily inspiration. Amo te.
Radcly f fe 2005
Thursday, September 13, 2001
S ecret Service Agent Cameron Roberts opened her eyes in the one place she had never expected to awaken—on the second floor of the White House in a 200-year-old bed. A Thomas Sheraton original. And curled up naked beside her was the daughter of the president of the United States. Blair Powell's cheek was pillowed against Cam's breast, her breath soft and warm, caressing Cam's skin with the to-and-fro cadence of sleep. Cam cradled Blair with one arm curved around her shoulders, her fingertips gently smoothing the bare skin of Blair's upper arm in long slow strokes.
The room was dark, the heavy drapes pulled closed over the floor-to-ceiling leaded-glass windows on the far side of the spacious room. She judged it was probably not yet five and still dark outside. The house seemed utterly quiet, although she knew that at the far end of the hall the president slept and that one floor below, the halls would be teeming with Secret Service agents and members of the Metropolitan Police division who patrolled the White House grounds. While the first family was in the private quarters on the second and third floors, the Secret Service did not physically guard them. But as soon as they left that sanctuary and stepped into the public areas, sensors located in every hallway and room tracked their movements and the Secret Service agents assigned to each family member resumed their surveillance.
She was one of those Secret Service agents, and the family member she was charged to protect was lying in her arms. A year ago she would have denied even the possibility of such an occurrence, but that was before she had been reassigned from the investigative arm of the Secret Service to the protective division, and had reluctantly accepted the responsibility of safeguarding Blair Powell. Now, Blair was central to her life, and although protecting her remained her solemn duty, it was also the critical focus of her days. The urgency and importance of that charge had always been clear to her, but never more so than in the last forty-eight hours when terror had struck the nation in the form of multiple hijacked commercial airliners that had been turned into enormous airborne missiles. A simultaneous, near-successful assault on Blair within the confines of her own heavily fortified Manhattan home merely underscored the first daughter's terrible vulnerability with devastating precision. Unconsciously, Cam tightened her grip on her sleeping lover.
"It's all right," Blair murmured, stroking her palm up the center of Cam's abdomen to her chest. "I'm right here."
Cam rested her cheek against the top of Blair's head and covered Blair's hand with her own, pressing the warm fingers to her breast. "How can you know what I'm thinking when you're asleep?"
Blair laughed softly. "I can sense you when you switch into protective mode. Your whole body feels like you're ready to throw yourself in front of me, even when we're lying in bed."
"You don't need to be. In a crazy kind of way, I like it." Blair pressed a kiss to the side of Cam's breast. "At least, I like closing my eyes and feeling totally safe. I don't like the idea of you protecting me with your body for real."
No other words were needed. Because Cam had put herself between Blair and danger more than once, and the first time had nearly cost her life. Blair's guilt over that event had almost kept them apart, and they still lived with an uneasy truce regarding Cam's role as Blair's personal security chief—a position that at any moment could force Cam to sacrifice her own life for Blair's. And now, in the aftermath of tragedy, that possibility had escalated a thousandfold.
"I can't believe it really happened," Blair whispered. "God. All those innocent people."
"No," Cam replied, her voice thick with fatigue and sorrow. "Neither can I." She sighed. "I guess it's more fair to say I don't want to believe it. But I am lying here with you in the official presidential residence, and only something as catastrophic as a direct assault on you—Christ, on the heart of the nation—could have brought that about."
"It's sad, isn't it, that it took something like that to bring us together under my father's roof." Blair rubbed her cheek against Cam's breast, seeking comfort. "Love wasn't enough, but the death of thousands was. Now the fact that you and I are lovers is of no interest to anyone."
"It doesn't matter to anyone today" Cam said with a trace of bitterness, "but in a week or a month, it will. When the media frenzy over this has wound down some, then your personal life will be headline news again."
Blair raised up on an elbow and struggled to see Cam's face in the dim light. She was unused to hearing frustration and anger in her lover's voice and knew even without being able to make out Cam's chiseled features that her dark gray eyes would be nearly black with pain. It was rare for Cam to be unable to hide her anguish. She always dealt with reality, no matter how difficult, with a cool head and a steady hand. But then, they, like every other citizen of the United States, had been deeply shocked by the events of September 11. Their mad flight to safety from New York City and the subsequent evacuation to DC had left them little time to deal with the aftermath.
Cam had lost one agent in the assault on Blair's apartment, her second in command—Mac Phillips—had been critically wounded, and another agent under her command had actually been part of the assassination attempt. Blair had often seen Cam assume responsibility for things over which she had no control. It was one of the things that Blair loved best about her as well as one of the things that frustrated her to no end. She ached knowing that Cam was blaming herself now, and suffering.
"What happened in New York wasn't your fault."
"Blair," Cam said gently. Wordlessly, she kissed her. She wanted to point out that one of her team members had come within a heartbeat of shooting Blair, but she didn't want to resurrect that terrifying memory in Blair's consciousness when it was still so fresh. She knew that the horror of that moment was not over for either of them, but for now, they had to deal with more immediate concerns. If there had been one traitor on her team, there might be others. And it was far from clear that the nation itself was safe, that another attack wasn't imminent. She and every member of the law enforcement community had to be concerned with one thing, and one thing only—ensuring that the nation and those critical to its survival were safe. Her official part in that was to protect Blair. Her private obligation was to track down those responsible for the attempt on her lover's life. "You're going to need to stay here for a while."
It was Blair's turn to stiffen. "I don't live here. My home is in New York City. My place is with you."
"Your safety is what matters, and this is the safest place in the world for you right now."
"And where will you be, Cam? Where will you be while I'm sequestered here, with someone watching my movements twenty-four hours a day? When will we have time to be together? Where will we have the privacy to touch?" Blair hadn't raised her voice, but her tone was rough with fury. "Is that what you want? For us to be separated?"
Cam slid her fingers beneath the thick blond hair at the nape of Blair's neck and massaged the taut muscles on either side of her spine. Her voice was quiet, calm, because she knew that Blair's anger was born of pain. "You know I don't want that. I love you. I want to lie down with you every night and open my eyes with you beside me every morning. I want that more than anything in my life."
"Oh Cam," Blair sighed, resting her forehead against her lover's. "I'm sorry. It's just the last thing I want right now is for you to... disappear."