Above All, Honor
See part 1 for all disclaimers and copyright information.
Mac was surprised to see Cameron walk in at seven a.m. on Sunday morning. The report from the night watch said it was she who had picked up Egretís trail and tracked her down in the late hours of the night. Interestingly, there was no report on the surveillance inside the bar. Roberts would have to do that herself. He nodded hello as she poured coffee and joined him at the large central work station.
"How long have you been on this detail, Mac?" she asked conversationally.
"Since the beginning of the Presidentís term," he replied.
"Have things been this out of hand the entire time?"
He held his breath for a second, trying to judge who he might potentially offend that mattered. He couldnít think of anyone. "Worse. At least last night we found her. Thereís been a half dozen nights, and one whole weekend, when we didnít know where she was."
"Christ," Cam muttered. "How in hell did you keep that quiet?"
Mac shrugged. "Egretís not stupid. She knew weíd have to hit the panic button if she were completely out of contact, so she called in every few hours, randomly, from pay phones, to prove she was okay. We ran around like assholes the whole time trying to find her."
"Egretís got a lot of pull with her old man. If someone complains about her, and it gets back to him, it better be serious, or youíre looking for a new job. And he doesnít seem to think a little joy riding is too serious."
"I do," Cam said flatly. "And since weíre not going to get any help from above, weíll have to stay tight on her, but not get in her way. Sheís most likely to run if we crowd her."
"I think everyone understands the plan," he replied.
"See that they do."
At three p.m., Blair emerged from the apartment building and climbed into the back of the nondescript black car waiting at the curb for her. Cameron Roberts was inside. Blair was dressed for the gallery opening in a simple black dress that spoke of taste and understated elegance. The thin straps accentuated the toned muscles of her shoulders and arms, while the scooped neck revealed just a hint of cleavage. This was a pre-publicized event, and the presence of the secret service was expected. Blair noted that Agent Roberts looked well-attired for the gathering in a gray silk suit and monochromatic shirt, beautifully tailored and fashionably cut. This was one public servant who did not buy her clothes off the rack.
The guest list was a mixture of all the important art collectors in the city and quite a few of the artists as well. Cam had photos of all of them, and invitations would be required for admission to the Soho gallery. Nevertheless, this was the most dangerous situation for Blair - a public function, advertised in advance. At the very least, there would be a curious crowd gathered outside. Cam planned on being inside with two other agents, while the second team waited in the car.
"Good afternoon, Ms. Powell," Cam remarked as they traveled.
"Agent Roberts, we meet again. Are you to be my date today?" she asked mildly.
"I was planning on coming in after you were inside. Itís not the best idea for me to be too easily identified. For those times weíd prefer none of us be recognized."
Blair laughed with just a hint of bitterness. "Times like last night, you mean. When it might be embarrassing."
"For those times when you might like as much privacy as possible," Cam amended quietly.
Blair stared at her. "Youíd like me to think you care?"
Cam shrugged lightly, a small smile flickering at the corner of her mouth. "The happier you are, the happier Iím going to be."
Blair laughed again, this time with no restraint. "You are honest at least, although Iím not sure how far that will get you."
"Itís the only card I have to play," Cam said seriously.
Blair surveyed her coolly. "Your approach is certainly novel. Iím used to strong-armed tactics Ė 'behave or else'. No one has tried the humble 'Iím just here to look after you' routine before. I suppose you think Iíll fall for that and suddenly bare my Ė soulófor you?"
Her tone was mockingly suggestive, and her frank survey of Camís body left little question of her intent. She shifted slightly on the leather seat, baring an expanse of smooth, well-muscled thigh.
Cam smiled, unperturbed. No matter how attractive Blair Powell was, and she was damned attractive, Cam had no intention of being sidetracked. "If I can do my job without getting in your way, I will. As much as that is possible, Iíll see that that happens. Thereíll be times when itís impossible. Iíll apologize in advance for that."
"But you wonít bend the rules Ė not even as a favor?" Blair questioned softly, her tone heavy with innuendo.
"No," Cam stated flatly. She bent her head slightly as a voice in her ear appraised her of their location. Looking up she caught the surprise in Blairís eyes before her elegant features set into an expression of arrogant dismissal.
"Weíre almost there," Cam informed her. "One of the agents will walk you in."
"I know the drill," Blair snapped, irritated at the agentís implacable demeanor. Maybe she was wrong; maybe Roberts was straight after all. But the way she had looked in the bar! God, she was so hot, and seemed so comfortable there. Knowing Cam was watching from across the room while the stranger in leather took her pleasure from Blairís body had been an incredible turn on for her. More exciting than anything the woman against her was doing. She wanted Cam to feel as unsettled as she had been the night before. So far, she hadnít been able to crack the agent's cool exterior. If she couldnít unbalance her in some way, it was going to be very difficult to elude her and her watch dogs.
"Enjoy the opening," Cam said quietly as Blair slid from the limo. Blair did not grace her with a response.
Diane greeted her with an affectionate hug, whispering softly, "Hey, darliní Ė I called you all last evening. Out on the prowl?"
Blair shrugged imperceptibly, aware of the reporters nearby. "For a while."
They moved away from the crowd milling around the small bar which offered the obligatory wine and cheese. Blair smiled at the people she knew as well as those she didnít. She had so much practice at this she barely registered the faces any longer.
"Get lucky?" Diane probed with the slightest edge in her voice. They had known each other for years, since prep school at Choate, where they had been lovers briefly as teenagers. There had been more than one time Diane wished they still were. There were moments when she caught sight of Blair unexpectedly and her breath would catch with sudden desire. Blair was beautiful, talented, and --most attractively-- emotionally remote. Just the kind of challenge Diane liked in her women. When she looked at the cool, self-contained woman beside her, she barely remembered the eager, open young girl with whom she had first shared love and simple unbridled sexual pleasure. She hadnít caught a glimpse of her in years.
Blairís smile was brittle. "Depends on how you define that. I enjoyed her."
"Did she enjoy you?" Diane pushed, knowing full well Blair rarely allowed her sexual conquests the pleasure of having her. Which was one of the reasons Diane remained attracted. Like the exquisite one-of-a-kind works of art she brokered, she lusted after the exceptional, the singular, the one thing that no one else had. She wanted to be the one to wrest a cry of passion from those beautiful lips, to break the silence of Blairís isolation.
A warning flickered in Blairís blue eyes. There were places where even her oldest friend was not welcome. "She got what she was looking for. She left satisfied."
Yes, but did you? Diane thought, but wisely did not say. She surveyed the room, pleased at the turn out. Whenever she showed Blairís paintings, there was interest. Some of it, of course, was due to Blair's notoriety, but most of it was due to her genuine talent. The collectors were beginning to buy her work, recognizing its value. It wasnít a solo showing this time, but Blair was the featured artist.
"Whereís your new Spooky?" Diane asked.
"Directly across the room. She just came in," Blair responded. Cameron was looking casually in their direction without seeming to focus on them. She was good. Blair knew perfectly well that she was the only thing Cameron was looking at. She also knew that the handsome agent saw her only as an assignment, an object to be moved, contained, and controlled on some giant chess board. Blair might be the queen, but she had been stripped of her power. She was ruled by pawns, and she hated it. Especially when her keeper was a woman so attractive Blair felt a twinge of desire every time she saw her. That made her even more eager to escape those intense grey eyes.
"Oh my," Diane murmured, following Blairís gaze. She took in the lean physique and androgenous features in one swift appraising glance. "She is tantalizing."
Irked at the suggestive tone in Dianeís voice and even more irritated at her own surge of possessiveness, Blair snapped, "Yeah, if she isnít being paid to watch you."
"Iíd almost be willing to pay for that," Diane rejoined, ignoring the edge in Blairís tone. She had never let friendship stand in the way of her attraction to another woman, and if Blair was interested too, that just intensified the challenge. This one looked like she would take some work. There was a nearly visible barrier around her, her indifference shouting look if you want to, I couldnít care less. Diane loved bringing those untouchable types to their knees, so to speak.
"You need to mingle, darliní," Diane said as she moved away, "and so do I if Iím going to sell anything."
Blair watched her lithe blonde friend melt into the throng, wondering how long it would take her to get around to Agent Roberts. She frowned at her own concern, and turned smiling to the director of the Museum of Modern Art, greeting him by name without a hint of her inner disquiet.
"Itís a shame you canít enjoy the artwork," Diane said softly as she moved next to Cam. "Not that watching Blair is not enjoyable. Iím Diane Bleeker, Blairís agent."
"How do you do," Cam nodded politely, knowing full well exactly who the sophisticated woman beside her was. "I have managed a glance or two at the works."
"See anything you like," Diane queried teasingly. She didnít see the point in being coy. She was well beyond that in her life. She allowed one leg to rest gently against Camís trousered thigh. It could have been the press of the crowd that brought her so close, but they both knew it wasnít.
Cam registered the contact, and the heat of Dianeís body so close to her. If she glanced down she knew she would see the creamy expanse of the woman's breasts revealed by the low scoop of her black dress. She didnít look down. She gazed instead past her, to where Blair stood in conversation with a young man who resembled every stereotype of "struggling young artist" she had ever seen, right down to the rumpled tweed jacket and scraggly beard. She kept her eyes on them as she spoke.
"Actually yes. Thereís a series of sketches, nudes, on the far right wall. Charcoal on paper. Theyíre hers, arenít they?"
Diane studied her in surprise. She doubted many people had paid the small sketches much attention in the midst of the large oils and other canvasses. But that wasnít the real reason for her careful answer.
"The artist is Sheila Blake."
"Uh huh," Cam replied with a slight smile. "Ms. Blakeís strokes resemble those of Ms. Powellís, as does the use of light and shadow. Of course, Iím sure the Presidentís daughter wouldnít have cause to be doing female nudes. Are they for sale?"
"Yes," Diane replied, intrigued and immensely attracted.
"If the buyer desires. Once the works are consigned to me, the buyer becomes my client."
"The buyer wishes to remain anonymous," Cam stated smoothly, shifting her position slightly to keep Blair in sight.
Diane caught her breath as Camís arm unintentionally brushed her breast. She felt her nipple harden painfully, knowing it was visible beneath the shear material of her dress. Was it possible to be this aroused by someone who was practically ignoring you?
"I guarantee it," she managed, her voice husky.
"Need we discuss price," Diane asked. She was a businesswoman, after all.
"That wonít be necessary."
"Perhaps youíll allow me to take you to lunch then, to discuss the details."
Cam met her gaze fully for the first time, reading the invitation in them. "Lunch would be fine," she responded. "Iíll call."
"Yes, please do."
"Are you awake?"
"Did you get what I need?"
"More or less Ė I donít think this is going to make you very happy."
Blair sighed as she pulled her robe around herself and stumbled toward the kitchen and her first cup of coffee. "Tell me."
"Sheís not going to be easy to slip away from. Twelve years in the investigative division. Her specialty was tracking Columbian drugs paid for by counterfeit US dollars. Crooks scamming crooks. Apparently she was very good at it."
Blair watched the coffee drip into the pot, her thoughts swiftly calculating. "Why is she suddenly assigned to protection? What arenít you telling me?"
"There are substantial holes in the information on her. As a matter of record, she was involved in a multi-jurisdictional snafu last year. The secret service had surveillance units watching a drug factory on the outskirts of DC. Apparently the ATF was involved because they thought the same guys were trafficking guns as well as phony money. Unbeknownst to either Federal agency, the DC narcotics unit had an agent under cover with the drug boys. Somehow the Colombians got wind of it, the narcotics detectiveís cover was blown, and she was killed in a shoot out. Cameron Roberts was shot trying to warn her off seconds before the whole place went crazy."
Blairís stomach tightened. "She was shot?"
"In the thigh. Thatís not the whole story though."
Her caller hesitated. Even friendship had its limits. "Roberts has a sterling reputation, Blair."
"I donít intend to sully it," Blair snapped.
"There are rumors Ė not many, and no one will commit to knowing anything for sure. Sheís well-liked by her colleagues-"
"All right! I get your point. You donít want to tell me, but you will. Because if you donít Iíll make sure youíre never an Assistant Director."
"Iím kidding, and you should know that, if you donít after all these years. Tell me who she is, AJ. Sheís got control over my life!"
"Deep sources say the narcotics dick who was killed was her lover."
"Christ!" Blair breathed.
"That may explain the change in assignments. A thing like that can ruin you for field work."
Blair pictured the clear-eyed, focused woman who had tracked her down at the bar with seeming ease two nights before. None of the other agents had been able to find her once she'd slipped into the shadows. Or at least none had ever dared to.
"I donít think sheís ruined for anything, AJ. Sheís ice."
"That would fit."
"What do you mean?"
"Thereís one other rumor, buried so deep Iím not even sure itís her theyíre talking about."
Blair sat on the edge of the stool at her breakfast bar, her coffee forgotten. "What is it?"
"Youíve heard of the very hush hush escort service that operates on the hill?"
"You mean the one that provides all kinds of companions- boys, girls, either or both - for senators, dignitaries, and supposedly my father?"
"I donít know a thing about your father!"
"It doesnít matter one way or the other to me. He leaves me alone, thatís all I care about. Whatís this got to do with Roberts? Is she trying to shut it down?"
"Might be sheís using it."
Blair caught her breath, then laughed derisively. "Your sources havenít seen Cameron Roberts. Believe me, she does not have to pay for sex!!"
"Maybe she wants to."
"No strings Ė no attachment Ė nothing to lose."
"I forgot youíre a psychologist," Blair commented dryly. She finally sipped her coffee. "So what youíre telling me is that my new keeper has no weaknesses I might exploit to make a little breathing room for myself, huh?"
"None that I could find."
Blair gently replaced the receiver, her annoyance warring with her curiosity. Every one had a secret, and everyone had a weakness Ė even her. She had just been lucky enough to keep hers hidden all her life. So apparently had Cameron Roberts.
At precisely eleven a.m. a knock sounded at the door. Blair answered, knowing whom it was.
"Always punctual, Agent Roberts?" she queried as she turned away, leaving Cam to follow her into the loft. As she walked she caught her wild blond hair back with a headband fashioned from a black bandana. She pushed sweats and other gear into a nondescript gym bag, ignoring Cam as she packed.
"I thought we might go over the plans for the trip to DC, and New Yearís Eve," Cam suggested, leaning against the back of the couch.
"Whatís to review," Blair said dismissively. "Youíll escort me to the airport, another hired guard will pick me up at National and deposit me at the White House, where I will play dutiful daughter, pose for a few photos, and celebrate surviving another year." She glanced at Cam with a shrug. "Iíll tell you when Ė you be here."
"I would like to have the itinerary in advance so I can brief my team. Shall we plan on departure at 3pm Wednesday?"
Blair finally faced her fully. "I am in the habit of setting my own schedule."
"Thatís why Iím here," Cam replied evenly.
"Do you spar, Agent Roberts?" Blair asked suddenly.
"As in hand to hand combat?"
"As in karate?"
Cam hesitated momentarily, at a loss as to where they were headed. Blair Powell did not make casual conversation. "Not exactly. I donít point spar Ė Iím a mat stylist. I Ė"
"Then letís talk about the travel arrangements after we work out. I was just leaving for the gym. You can use some of my gear."
Cam stared at her. This was not a good idea. She was paid to protect her, not socialize with her. She didnít care how it might look to others, but she was worried about maintaining a professional distance. Blair was hard enough to handle without adding the confusion of any sort of personal relationship.
Stalling she said, "If youíre going out I need to alert my people---"
Blair grabbed her bag, brushing past Cam. "Iím outta here. You coming or not?"
Cam had no choice. She either went with her or allowed her to leave the building alone and hope one of her agents picked her up before Blair lost them in the crowds on the street. She hurried after her, activating her radio as she went.
"Mac, you there?" she whispered urgently.
"Yeah, boss," Mac answered immediately.
"Egret is flying Ė get someone downstairs in a car-"
"Roger that Ė you keeping her company?"
"Affirmative, but I want backup, and make sure everyone is mobile." She shouldered into the elevator just as the doors began to slide closed. Blair leaned against the rear wall watching her with an amused expression on her face. Cam clicked off the radio, clipped it back on her belt and stared at her. She was more annoyed than angry, but she kept her expression neutral.
"You donít like it, do you?" Blair stated.
"Like what?" Cam asked evenly.
"Not being in control- not knowing whatís going to happen one moment to the next."
"If weíre speaking about my work, youíre right. Itís my job to be in the know Ė to have control of the situation. Thatís what Iím paid to do."
Blair studied her, unable to read anything in her smooth even features or her calm modulated tones. The elevator doors opened into the foyer and she saw two agents waiting near the door. She shook her head impatiently.
"Tell them to leave us alone," she said unexpectedly. There was a hint of something desperate in her voice.
"The gym on Seventh Ave?" Cam responded.
Cam spoke into her radio. "Weíre walking to Soho. Follow us in the car."
Cam and Blair stepped out into a brisk clear morning as the two men moved past them into the car that sat idling at the curb. It slowly drifted through traffic behind them as they turned south toward the gym.
Blair glanced at Cam who walked beside her, constantly scanning the street ahead of them and the cars that passed along side.
"Are you really serious about protecting me?" she asked.
"Because you need it, and because I have been asked to do it."
"Would you actually 'take a bullet' for me, as they say?" Blair said mockingly. A muscle clenched in Camís jaw, and a storm rose in her gray eyes.
"Yes," she answered curtly. She locked eyes with Blair, searching for some hint of what she was after. She had no doubt there was some point to this. Blairís blue eyes were defiant, and just as searching.
"Youíve had some practice at that, havenít you," Blair probed. Finally a swift intake of breath and a slight falter in Camís step rewarded her as the question struck home. She does have a weak spot, she thought triumphantly. When Cam failed to answer, Blair pushed.
"Itís a matter of record, you know."
"Then you know all there is to know," Cam replied stiffly. She fought to keep the image of Janetís face from her mind.
"As you said Ė itís a matter of record."
Blair laughed. "We all know how accurate the records are, donít we, Agent Roberts?"
Their destination was not the expected polished urban health club where Blair practiced yoga and aerobics. Blair led them swiftly past the entrance to the gym and turned down an adjacent alley. Cam groaned inwardly when Blair grabbed her arm and directed her up a flight of narrow littered stairs to a huge room on the third floor of a rundown tenement building.
The clientele was mostly male. There were worn punching bags hung from chains scattered about, men in torn tee shirts or no shirts at all pounding at them. Heavily- muscled lifters grunted and sweated at the free weight benches tucked into every conceivable corner. Two elevated boxing rings dominated the center of the space, one currently occupied by a pair of fighters making a serious effort to score off each other. Cam was willing to bet there were half a dozen felons in the room, any one of whom probably knew exactly who Blair Powell was.
"Have you been here before?" she asked as she weaved her way around bodies, following Blair toward the rear.
"Three times a week for eighteen months."
Cam was furious. No one had told her about this place Ė she had no background on the members, no idea of the physical layout, and no prayer of guarding Blair effectively. How in hell had this been overlooked?
As if reading her mind, Blair commented, "They donít know about it."
Blair grinned, an altogether spontaneous and disarming grin. Or it might have been if Cam hadnít been so angry. "They think Iím at my therapistís office around the corner most of the time."
Cam didnít ask her why. There was no need to. She knew why. Pointing out the danger would be meaningless. Blair obviously cared less for her safety than for her freedom, and that was probably the result of having people like herself constantly shadowing her for the last fifteen years of her life. What mattered to Cam now was that something similar not happen again.
"Here we are," Blair announced, pulling back the curtain to a small cramped dressing room not much bigger than a walk-in closet. A shower stall and toilet were visible behind a rickety screen in the back. Blair tossed her bag down and in one fluid motion pulled off her shirt. She caught Cam off guard and laughed knowingly as Camís eyes flickered once to her breasts before she quickly looked away.
"You can grab sweats and a tee shirt from my bag. Thereís plenty," Blair informed her as she continued to strip. She watched Cam unabashedly as she changed. She knew Cam was aware of her scrutiny, although she gave no sign of it. Cam had the kind of body Blair expected Ė lean and hard-muscled, a tightly coiled machine. She imagined making those muscles quiver with desire, watching Cam's rigid control break with need. The power of the image stirred a flush of arousal so keen it made her gasp. If Cam heard, she gave no sign of it. She reached for a pair of sweats without hurrying.
Blair looked at the ten inch scar that ran down the outside of Camís right thigh. It was still fresh enough that it hadnít lost the redness. As Cam pulled the pants up, Blair asked, "Is your leg okay?"
"Yes, it is."
Cam pulled on a tee shirt that said 'Ernieís Gym'. She faced Blair, who stood appraising her. The Presidentís daughter wore a sleeveless tee, torn off a couple of inches below her high firm breasts, and baggy sweats. Sleek well-toned muscles defined her arms and legs. Her exposed midriff was taut, and she sported a small gold ring in her navel. Untamed blond strands escaped from the black headband, wilding around her face. Her blue eyes glinted with brazen sensuality. She was a beautiful animal.
"I take it this is Ernieís?" Cam remarked dryly, refusing to be distracted by Blairís open seduction. The time when the promise of a body like that might have interested her was past. The price of possession was too high.
"This is Ernieís," Blair rejoined, pushing the curtain aside. She wasnít perturbed by Camís rebuff. She would have been disappointed had it been easy. What bothered her was the undeniable throbbing in her own body. Desire was a weakness, one she exploited in others, but avoided personally. There were too many ways in which other people controlled her. She would not allow another.
Camís head snapped back as a kick landed along her jaw.
"Are you sure you donít want a helmet," Blair called, a hint of laughter in her voice. She moved lightly on the canvas, her gloved hands at chest level. Cam faced her, wearing no gloves or other protective gear.
"No thanks," Cam responded, gauging the reach of Blairís legs with respect. When the next kick came she stepped off the line of the trajectory and deflected it with a forearm. She expected a follow-up punch, and she blocked that as well. She stepped back once again to a middle range, trying to get a feel for Blairís tactics. Blair moved lightly on the canvass, agile and supple. Blair was a kickboxer, and used her feet as weapons in the ring. Cam was trained for the street. Blair attacked relentlessly, mixing kicks, double kicks and strikes with considerable skill. Some scored, although none would have done damage had they been full force.
Cam deflected, blocked and redirected her opponentís efforts. She was trained to immobilize and neutralize, and those techniques were not designed for sparring. She knew she couldnít defend this way for long Ė there was a good chance Blair would make serious contact with one of her kicks. As a sweeping round house kick approached her head, Cam stepped forward into Blairís body, so close to her that the kick lost its force. She trapped Blairís leg with her near arm, grasped the shoulder of Blair's shirt with her other hand, and swept Blairís remaining leg out from under her. Cam held onto her to break her fall, following her down to the mat, and pinned her face down with a shoulder pin.
"Son of a bitch!" Blair muttered as she struggled briefly to lift her torso off the canvass. She stopped when the pressure on her shoulder increased slightly. She wasnít damaged, but she was effectively immobilized.
"If you tap the mat, Iíll release you," Cam said softly into her ear. "But you must promise not to punch me as you get up. Rules of war."
Blair laughed as she slapped the mat. She rolled over and found Cam kneeling beside her, a half smile on her face.
"You okay?" Cam asked.
"Dandy. I suppose youíll do that again if we start over?"
"I told you I didnít spar," Cam said as they both got to their feet. "Youíd annihilate me."
"No, I donít think so," Blair replied softly, stripping off her gloves. "You mind showing me that technique?"
Cam glanced outside the ring, realizing they had drawn quite a crowd. She wasnít sure this was a good time for a lesson, especially when she had no one inside the building. She couldnít very well survey the people around them if she was flat on her back. Blair followed her gaze, her smile disappearing in irritation.
"They donít know me," she said flatly.
Cam saw the resentment in her eyes, and shook her head slightly. "You canít know that."
"I know," Blair insisted. "I always know." She took a deep breath, then added in a whisper, "please."
Cam swept the group leaning on the ropes one more time. "All right."
She demonstrated at half- speed several times while Blair watched intently. Then she launched a kick toward Blairís head, ready to pull back if Blair failed to execute the technique. Blair quickly countered and took Cam down soundly to the cheers of the onlookers. Cam found herself on her back with Blair above her, Blair's bent forearm pressed to Camís neck. Blair pressed her knee between Camís legs and leaned forward until their faces were nearly touching. Her lips were a breath away.
"If you donít slap the mat, I can make this feel a whole lot better," Blair whispered.
Cam gasped as Blair rocked her thigh against Camís pelvis. For a second all she felt was the fire, igniting instantly into a consuming ache. She caught back a moan, shook her head to clear it, and in one upward thrust, dislodged Blair from on top of her. She was on her feet quickly, and in the next instant had vaulted over the ropes and out of the ring.
"Sheís too much for you, huh girl?" a burly man next to her said good-naturedly.
"You got that right," Cam responded lightly. She waited as Blair climbed down, then followed her into the dressing room.
"I need to shower," Blair informed her, pulling off her clothes. Cam struggled to quell the remnants of unwanted desire.
"Iíll wait outside."
"What are you afraid of, Agent Roberts?" Blair taunted lightly as she stood naked before her. "I felt you, you know."
"Take your time," Cam said evenly as she stepped out through
the curtain. Blairís laughter followed her even as the throbbing in her pelvis
reminded her of her own weakness.
Cam slammed the office door hard enough that the glass enclosure rattled. Six agents sat slumped around the table, staring at their pens. Cam stood at the end of the table, breathing heavily, trying to contain her anger.
"How many of you have been on this detail longer than six months?" she asked at length, her words clipped. There was a moment of silence, then Mac cleared his throat.
"All of us, maíam."
"All of you." She looked them over one at a time. "All of you."
"Yes maíam," he responded.
"Obviously none of you are capable of this assignment, nor worthy of it. Blair Powell Ė the daughter of the President of the United States -has been criminally unprotected for months, and not one of you reported it? Even if I could overlook your lack of responsibility to her Ė which I canít Ė it is impossible to excuse your silence regarding the potential danger to national security. Were she kidnapped it would threaten the presidency." Leaning forward, both hands flat on the table, she said succinctly, "I want a request for transfer from every one of you on my desk in one hour."
As Cam turned toward the door, Paula Stark stood abruptly. "Commander!"
"Yes?" Cam questioned.
"I donít want a transfer, maíam. I want this detail."
"Really? And why is that?"
Stark took a deep breath. "Because she is my responsibility, and because I can do what no one else can. Iíve spent months following her through half the gay bars in this city. I am recognized, and Iím accepted. I can go where most of the others canít. You need an inside person, and thatís me."
Cam regarded her silently.
Paula met Camís penetrating gaze. "I should have filed a report sooner. We lose her regularly, and itís always because weíre never informed of her route, or she changes it, or she intentionally lies to us. Weíre all frustrated Ė but thatís no excuse."
"Youíre right. Thatís no excuse for what you all have been participating in. Regardless of Ms. Powellís duplicity, it is your sworn duty to guard her. If you donít have what it takes, you donít belong here. I donít want anyone on this team who doesnít want to be here." She looked over the group. "Iíll see that there are no repercussions if you request transfer now, but I guarantee I will see you posted to an embassy in Somalia if you fuck up on my detail."
An hour later, Mac knocked on the door to Camís eight by ten office.
Cam studied his boyishly handsome face. His blue eyes were serious.
"Are you staying or leaving, Mac?"
"Iím staying if you want me. Two men want transfers Ė theyíre bringing the paperwork. Iím sorry I fucked up. If you donít trust meÖ"
Cam stopped him with a raised hand. "I need a good coordinator, Mac. We have an uncooperative target Ė nothing is going to change that. We are going to have to be able to readjust personnel, vehicle placement, even motor routes at a momentís notice. I need to be with her Ė consistently, persistently Ė until she figures out that we are not going away."
She saw the look of disbelief he quickly tried to hide. She laughed, the tension easing from her shoulders for the first time since she left the gym. "Yeah, I know. Iím dreaming. Youíll be the desk jockey most of the time weíre here, and the communication center when weíre not. Are you in or not?"
He favored her with a brilliant smile. "Iím in."
"Good Ė then find me replacements for the two who are leaving. I donít even want to see the files until youíve been through them. And Mac Ė we both know what the problem has been. If thereís even a hint of homophobia, I donít want them on this assignment. Blair Powellís lifestyle is not our concern, and shouldnít affect the way we do the job. I want that clear."
"Yes maíam. I understand."
"Good. Weíll brief for the trip to Washington at 0700."
As soon as her second in command closed the door, Cam leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes. She didnít want to think about her response to Blairís blatant sexual overture at the gym, but she had to. She could not afford to be distracted, and there was no denying the effect Blair had on her. Fortunately, it was purely physical, and they would be in Washington in two days. She could satisfy the insistent demands of her body then.
Cam was the last one on the plane. The cabin space was small, and Blair sat alone near the rear. Three other agents had boarded earlier and occupied the area just behind the cockpit. Cam nodded to them as she moved toward the rear, finally settling in the seat across the aisle from Blair. She stretched her legs into the aisle and pulled a stack of memos from her briefcase.
"Do you have plans for tonight, Agent Roberts?" Blair asked. She liked the semi-casual look of Camís pressed khaki chinos and matching blazer over a cotton broadcloth shirt. The only way she liked her better was in the tight faded jeans she wore when she was off-duty. Blair remembered very well how good Cam looked in those. In fact, every time she thought about that night in the bar she wanted nothing more than to get her hands inside those jeans. For the moment at least, that seemed unlikely.
Cam smiled, shaking her head slightly. "No plans. Happy Birthday, by the way."
Blair flushed slightly, then reminded herself the agent was only being polite, like most of the people in her life. She leaned forward, lowering her voice as she spoke. "Why thank you. I donít suppose a birthday kiss is in the offing?"
Cam glanced at her, aware of how attractive she was, then back at the papers before her. "No."
They did not speak for the rest of the flight.
Cam accompanied Blair across the drive to the private entrance to the White House. She stopped at the door as a guard opened it for Blair.
"Iíll see you in the morning, Ms. Powell," she said. The door swung shut with no response from the Presidentís daughter. The White House Security staff would be responsible for her welfare from this point until she was ready to leave the next day. Cam was looking forward to a day off, and a relaxing evening.
Continue on to Part 4
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