For the third time in as many days, Cam stood at Blair's door, knowing that when she crossed the threshold, her life would change. Each time she stepped outside of her comfortable world of regulations and routine to enter the uncertain arena of her relationship with Blair, she came away more deeply bound to her. It wasn't easy, but she couldn't deny that she wanted it. More than that, she couldn't deny that she needed it.
Blair opened the door and said softly, "Hi."
"Hi," Cam said, not yet moving to enter. Blair looked tired and that was unusual for her. There were smudges of fatigue under her eyes and the smile she offered Cam was tinged with sadness. Cam reached out and ran her fingertips over Blair's cheek. "Have you slept?"
Blair shook her head. "I meant to, but I couldn't stop thinking."
"You should try," Cam said gently. "It's going to be a long night."
"I know," Blair answered softly. She wanted to reach out to her, to pull her inside. But she also knew that she wanted to keep her inside, away from the night, away from the danger, and that wasn't her choice to make. It hurt to think that Cam would not choose safety over responsibility, even for her. So she stood waiting, wondering what it was that Cam really wanted. Finally she said, "I wasn't sure you would come."
Cam lifted her fingers briefly to Blair's face again. "I'm sorry you didn't know that," she murmured. "I'm sorry for the pain of all of this."
"No," Blair said quickly. "That's not your doing. It never has been."
"I could have done things differently," Cam said softly. "Between us."
Blair smiled at that, a faint fond smile. "Could you have?"
Cam shook her head. "No. But I wish that I could have, so as not to hurt you."
"That just might be enough," Blair admitted, because she couldn't imagine which part of Cam could be changed without destroying some essential element of her. She feared that to change her would be to lose her.
"Blair," Cam said urgently, "I want you to know…"
Blair stopped her with her fingers on her lips. "Will you come in now?"
Cam kissed her fingertips. "Yes."
"Can you stay?" she asked again.
"For a little while."
"That won't always be enough," Blair warned, but there was no anger in her voice.
"I understand," Cam replied, stepping across the threshold. "But I won't always be leaving."
Then Cam was inside, and Blair closed the door, and they were alone. Blair raised her arms to Cam's shoulders and moved up against her, resting her face on Cam's shoulder. She sighed, and as she couldn't seem to do before, she let go of everything in her mind and floated in the certainty of Cam's embrace.
"Let's go to bed," Blair finally murmured. "I need to hold you."
"Yes," Cam answered quietly, her lips moving gently on Blair's ear. "I need to tell you things."
And then they were naked in one another's arms, face to face, covered only by a light cotton sheet. Slowly, they kissed, each exploring the other anew with gentle strokes and tender caresses. They didn't hurry, but touched with absolute certainty, as if there had been no beginning and there would be no ending. Slowly, they stirred one another until they trembled together, breathless and poised on the precipice, ready to fall.
Blair brought one leg over Cam's hips, opening herself, as she stared into Cam's eyes. "Come inside," she whispered.
Cam slid her hand between their bodies, her fingers parting the swollen flesh, gliding over Blair's clitoris, making her gasp and quiver. "In a minute," she whispered back.
Their eyes locked as Cam held her tightly, drawing her fingers lightly back and forth over the exposed, exquisitely sensitive tip. Blair's fingers dug into her arm, and Cam murmured, "There's no hurry. Let me have you."
Blair was barely breathing, her muscles clenched and begging for release, every cell focused on the overpowering pleasure rippling under Cam's fingertips. "Oh please," Blair moaned at last. "Let me come."
Cam pressed harder, circling faster, each knowing stroke bringing her slowly but steadily to orgasm. She watched Blair's blue eyes darken to purple and lose focus.
"I love you," Cam whispered as Blair threw her head back and cried out sharply, pushing down hard against Cam's hand. Cam entered her then, prolonging the spasms with each thrust of her arm until Blair grew quiet and sagged against her.
"You wreck me," Blair gasped finally.
Cam wrapped her arms around her tightly. "I meant to."
"Just give me a minute to catch my breath," Blair murmured, pressing her lips to Cam's shoulder, wondering if she would ever recover, not from the pleasure, but from the agony of loving her so much.
"I'm okay," Cam answered, kissing Blair's temple gently.
"Bullshit," Blair laughed softly. "I can feel you on my leg, and you're a long ways from being okay."
To prove her point, Blair pressed her thigh hard between Cam's legs, and Cam groaned at the rapid surge of blood into her clitoris. "No fair," she gasped.
"Yes, fair," Blair said firmly, pushing Cam onto her back and rolling on top of her. "I told you I just needed a minute."
Cam looked up at her and grinned. "That's probably all I'll need, too."
"Oh no, Commander," Blair said softly. "I want much more than that from you."
And then Blair took her slowly, with her mouth and her hands and her tender caresses, drawing the fire from her blood and the heat from her bones, igniting her nerves and scorching her senses, until all Cam knew was Blair and all she could do was cry out her name.
They slept for an hour and awakened together, just on the other side of darkness. They lay side by side, hands clasped, their fingers entwined.
"What happens now?" Blair asked in the stillness.
Cam spoke quietly, her voice steady and calm. "At twenty-one hundred hours, Savard and I will leave for the rendezvous site. Thirty minutes later, Grant will walk out the front entrance and flag down a cab. Stark and Fielding will be in that cab. We're assuming that Loverboy may be watching here to assure himself that you are really going to meet him, and that you're coming alone as you said that you would. It's possible that he has someone else watching the building for him and relaying a message. Either way, it will look like you have once again slipped by us and are on your way to him."
"So how will he get to the meeting site on time, if he's here when Grant leaves?"
"Lindsey Ryan speculates that he chose this site some time ago, and I agree. He was prepared when you agreed to meet him. He named that place and time almost immediately. It may have just been his fantasy that you would someday come to him, but Lindsey thinks he's actually been there, and may have already 'readied' it for you."
Blair shivered at the thought of someone creating these elaborate fantasies with her as the star. It made her feel as if someone had been touching her while she slept.
Cam slipped her arm around her shoulder and drew her near. "Blair, you don't need to hear all of this."
"No," Blair said quickly, her voice strong and determined. "I want to know. All of it."
Cam continued. "He'll either follow Grant to the site or use an alternate route to arrive before her. Since he's familiar with the area, we assume that he'll have planned a way into the arcade without detection. We'll already be in place when she arrives."
"But she's not really going to meet him, is she?" Blair asked worriedly.
"No," Cam said with certainty. "Doyle's team will have infrared heat seeking scopes that will pinpoint the location of any living thing bigger than a dumpster rat within a hundred yards of the meet site. They'll hone in on him and take him out. Grant's only role is to leave here as you and get out of the cab at the entrance to the amusement park. She's not going to actually enter the arcade."
"And you and Savard?" Blair asked quietly, her heart pounding.
Cam leaned up on elbow so that she could look into Blair's eyes. The room lights were off, but the streetlights outside the loft windows were enough for them to see each other. "We'll be there for ground support only, to assure that Grant is covered if any action takes place near her and to get her to the back up car which will be nearby. Escort duty only."
"Is that all of it, Cam?"
Cam held her gaze. "That's the plan, Blair. I won't tell you that unexpected things don't happen, but there will be a hundred agents right behind us and about that many State Police watching the perimeter. It's as solid as these things get."
Blair ran her hand through Cam's hair, then tightened her fingers in the thick strands, pulling Cam's head down close to her face. "I can't take anyone else leaving me."
"I won't," Cam vowed. "I swear."
"Well, that's reassuring," Blair whispered, "because I know your word is good."
Then, in the last moment left to them, they made their promises - simply and surely - with a kiss.
At twenty minutes to midnight, Blair walked into the command center. She halted just inside the door, momentarily disoriented. The room was brightly lit yet eerily deserted. Monitors flickered with images that no one watched. Chairs stood askew in front of desks littered with coffee cups and food wrappers, as if abandoned in haste. Here and there a jacket or sweater lay forsaken on a counter. The atmosphere of control she was accustomed to had been replaced by a lingering sense of chaos that made her heart beat uneasily.
"Ms. Powell?" Lindsey Ryan said quietly as she approached with a cup of coffee in her hand.
Startled, Blair jumped. She turned toward the voice and smiled ruefully. "I couldn't wait upstairs."
Lindsey nodded sympathetically. "Would you like some coffee?"
Blair raised an eyebrow, struggling to get a grip on her nerves. "I don't suppose you know who made it, do you? I've had the coffee some of these people make, and it's an adventure I'm not up to at the moment."
"Actually, I just made it myself," Lindsey said with a laugh. "Mac and Felicia are both glued to the communication consoles, and they probably need it by now."
"I can imagine, " Blair murmured, thinking of the twenty-four restless, anxious hours she had spent with them waiting for Loverboy to contact her. She stepped further into the room and looked toward the far end where the communication equipment covered the entire wall and every surface within reach of the swivel chairs where Mac and Felicia Davis still sat. She was certain that they hadn't moved in days.
"I'll take your word that it's safe then," Blair said, indicating the coffee.
The two women walked back to the small alcove where the coffee machines and refrigerator were housed. Blair poured coffee, then raised the Styrofoam cup to her lips and sipped cautiously. Ryan was right, it wasn't bad. She settled her hips against the edge of the counter and regarded the redhead silently for a moment. Finally she asked, "Is there any word?"
Lindsey shook her head. "Not yet. Mac has a direct line to Commander Roberts, but all we know is that she and Savard are on site." She hesitated, then added carefully, "Ms. Powell, we can only get a small piece of the picture from here, and sometimes an incomplete picture is worse that no picture at all."
"You expect trouble?" Blair said worriedly, recognizing Ryan's delicate attempt to tell her to leave. She hadn't come down earlier because she didn't want to distract Cam right before the operation began. Instead, she had forced herself to sit in her kitchen and wait. She had watched the clock approach eleven, imagining Cam putting on her protective gear and strapping on her weapons. As every minute passed, her anxiety had grown. She had wanted so badly to see Cam again before she left. Just to say -- just to say what she hadn't said before. I love you.
Her throat dry, Blair asked again, "Is something wrong?"
"No," Lindsey said quickly. "But I've watched too many of these things not to know that sometimes what I thought was happening wasn't really what happened at all. It can be nerve-wracking when you're helpless to do anything."
Blair laughed entirely without humor. "Agent Ryan, I doubt very much that anything will happen that I haven't already imagined. Believe me, knowing has got to be better than what I'm thinking. I won't get in anyone's way."
Ryan touched her arm briefly, a sympathetic gesture of understanding. "Come with me. We can wait this one out together."
From her position atop an abandoned crane platform, Cam had a clear view of the entrance to the amusement park as well as the parking lot directly in front of the arched entryway. There were no functioning lights in the immediate vicinity, but the highway itself was not too far away and there was enough illumination from passing cars and the bright summer moon for her to see without night vision goggles. She could discern the outline of a few buildings - windows shattered and doors hanging from deteriorating hinges - surrounded by the skeletal remains of broken down amusement park rides. In the blue glow of moonlight it looked like a graveyard of prehistoric creatures.
Savard was on the ground directly below her, in shadows. Cam had reluctantly agreed with Doyle that Savard should take the point position. Cam was scanning multiple radio frequencies, but all she heard was the occasional query from Doyle confirming the position and readiness of the intercept teams. It was possible that their exchanges could be monitored, but she doubted that Loverboy had had time to lock onto their communication frequencies yet, even if he was in the area already. She checked her watch once again. Forty minutes had passed since Grant left Blair's building. She should be arriving any second.
Ellen Grant looked out the window into the deserted parking lot as the cab slowed to a halt. Reaching for the door handle, she took a deep breath and squared her shoulders. "Thanks for the ride, guys."
She could not see Stark, who was slouched down so that she would not be visible through the windows to anyone watching their arrival, but her voice was unmistakable. "Any time. Just holler, Cinderella, and we'll bring your coach."
"Roger that," Grant said as she stepped out into the night.
The cab pulled away and Grant looked around, trying to get her bearings. Thirty feet to her left was the gateway to the amusement park but beyond that was only blackness. There was some construction equipment in the parking lot itself, but otherwise no sign of anyone.
A soft voice murmured in her ear, "We have you, Grant."
Her anxiety disappeared at the sound of Roberts' steady voice. "I copy."
"Proceed through the gates," Doyle's voice ordered. "You are clear to approach the rendezvous point."
Roberts' voice repeated the order, "Proceed through the gates only. Hold inside and give us a visual."
Grant spoke softly as she walked forward. "I can see into the arcade now," she informed them as she pushed wide the tall iron gates and stepped through. "There are pieces of equipment all over the place, most of them large enough to hide someone." She looked across the grounds for the building that Loverboy had designated as the place where they would meet. The refreshment stand sign hung askew over the boarded up door. "No sign of activity."
"We have no hit on the thermal sensors. There is no evidence of occupation," Cam advised her. "Advance slowly but do not - I repeat - do not enter the building."
Looking right and left, Grant moved forward, trying to ignore the cold stream of sweat that ran down between her shoulder blades underneath the heavy vest and pooled at the base of her spine. She was very aware of the fact that her head was unprotected, and that the body armor she wore could be pierced by ammunition available to anyone over the internet. She had to trust that Doyle and his technicians had done a thorough sweep of the surrounding buildings and grounds, because she was a sitting duck. She pushed the thought from her mind and concentrated on the still, quiet night around her.
If it weren't for Cameron Roberts' voice in her ear, she might have thought she had awakened from a dream in an uninhabited world. She couldn't remember ever having felt so alone.
"Anything?" Doyle barked at one of the men next to him who was searching the field below with night vision glasses and thermal sensing equipment. They had set up on top of a warehouse just beyond the amusement park. From there Doyle could direct all the action.
"Nothing except the decoy," one grunted as he slowly panned the area. "Not even a stray cat."
"Somebody should radio the State boys and tell them that their perimeter is too close," someone else remarked. "I can see movement and we've got State Troopers almost on top of our people."
Doyle laughed derisively. "They're just looking for a little piece of the glory. It must get pretty boring riding around in those bubble cars stopping speeders all day."
The men laughed.
"Well," Doyle remarked in disgust. "I guess we're going to have to sweeten the pot if this boy is going to stick his head out of whatever hole he's hiding in."
He checked his watch and then keyed his transmitter to Grant's frequency. "Five minutes, Grant. If he's still a no show by then I want you to find a way into that building. If he's around, he might be waiting for you to commit yourself."
Cam heard Doyle's order and the hair on the back of her neck stood up. Something wasn't right. Lindsey Ryan had been certain that Loverboy would be here, because otherwise there was no point to any of this. If he didn't want to establish physical contact with Blair, then this was all a ploy to get her out into the open where he could make an attempt on her life. The refreshment stand was the obvious place for him to have set a trap. If he wanted to kill her, that would be where he would do it. Either way, he would want to be able to watch. He was here and they were missing him. And Ellen Grant was already too exposed.
"Doyle," Cam said, transmitting on his private frequency. "If we don't have a position on him, you can't send Grant inside alone. We can't cover her from here, and the place could be rigged."
"He didn't bring her all the way out here just to kill her," Doyle said, making no attempt to hide his scorn. "He'll show once he's certain that she's really going to go through with it. I'm not debating this, Roberts. She goes in."
She heard the click in her ear and knew that he had switched off. He was doing what he had wanted to do since the beginning. He was baiting the trap, and he was using her people to do it.
"Grant," Cam ordered sharply, "proceed on my signal only. Do you copy? Grant? Grant!"
Blair stared at the blank computer screen, her mind miles away. She tried to imagine what it was like for Ellen Grant, walking alone into the darkness to face someone she knew had already killed with impunity. Despite her concern for Grant, in her heart, Blair hoped that Loverboy was waiting. She hoped that tonight would be the end of this nightmare.
She thought about Cam, watching Grant and trying to protect her. If anything happened to someone else Cam was responsible for, Cam would never forgive herself. It would tear another hole in the fabric of her being and kill another piece of her heart. Blair did not want that to happen, and most of her reasons were selfish. She was afraid that eventually, Cam would close off those parts of herself that bled for the wounds of others. And if that happened, Blair would lose the part of Cam that she needed the most. No one had ever been able to reach through the bars of her invisible prison to touch her the way that Cameron Roberts had. No one else had ever really seen her, not the way Cam did. She needed that, because without it, she was so hopelessly alone.
She did not know how long the words had been there before she noticed them. She gasped and pushed her chair back as if to escape from the reality of what she was seeing. "Oh my god."
Instantly, Mac, Felicia Davis, and Lindsey Ryan turned toward her in concern.
"What is it?" Mac asked urgently.
Blair's voice shook as she responded, "I'm not sure. Look at what just came up on the screen."
The other three crowded behind her, peering over her shoulder to see the message.
Egret. Are you there?
"Is it him?" Blair asked breathlessly. "Could it be a timed message he sent earlier?"
Mac looked at Lindsey Ryan, whose face was a study in concentration. She was furiously assessing everything she knew about him, mentally forming and discarding theories, trying to read his distorted mind.
"Maybe a stand-in?" Mac asked. "Someone helping him?"
"No, it's him," Ryan said softly. "He'd never let anyone share in this."
"What should I do?" Blair questioned.
"If she answers, he'll know she isn't in the amusement park," Mac warned.
Lindsey stared at the question on the monitor, considering their options and trying to predict the consequences. It was almost impossible for a rational mind to predict the irrational mind of someone like Loverboy. On the other hand, she, more than anyone else, had been trained to do just that, and her opinion was the best information they had to rely on.
"Lindsey?" Mac asked quietly. "I've got to advise the Commander. It's your call."
She looked calmly at Blair. "Answer it."
Hands trembling, Blair typed, Yes
I always knew you wouldn't come
"Ask him where he is," Lindsey instructed, her eyes riveted to the screen.
I'm watching them look for me
"Jesus Christ," Mac cursed. Immediately, he switched to Cam's frequency. "We have communication from the subject," he said sharply. "You are compromised. I repeat - you are compromised."
Cam didn't hesitate. "Grant, evacuate now. Repeat, evacuate now."
On Stark's frequency, she ordered, "Institute retrieval. Retrieve your package now."
Switching yet again, she said, "Doyle. We've been made. He has visual. We are evacuating."
No one answered. She frantically opened all frequencies. Nothing.
She stepped to the edge of the platform and dropped to the ground. She landed a few feet from Savard. "Anything?"
Savard shook her head, her expression grim. "Commander, I don't see her. I'm getting no response on any channel. Com links are all down."
"God damn it - he's jamming us," Cam snapped angrily. "Let's go get her."
For an instant their eyes met and then they turned, shoulder to shoulder, and raced through the gates of the decaying amusement park into the darkness beyond. As they passed under the archway, Cam tried once more to reach Grant or Doyle. Her transmissions were met with silence. She looked ahead but all she could see was the blue black of the night sky broken by the silhouettes of the detritus of the abandoned park.
"Savard," Cam whispered as they rushed forward. "Swing right and cover our flank. If he's here, he's going to go after one of us. Let's not give him too many targets in one place."
Immediately, Savard melted away into the darkness.
The refreshment stand was fifty yards in front of her. She would be there in less than 60 seconds. 60 seconds.
Jesus, where is Grant?
Cam looked to the high ground, which is where she would have positioned herself if she had wanted to command the battle. In this situation the best vantage point was on top of a building, but the ones still standing in the arcade were in clear view of Doyle's men on the warehouse and they hadn't seen him. Still, out of habit, she scanned the structures with a sightline to the refreshment stand. Nothing.
Where the fuck is he?
She was almost there. The night had grown eerily still, yet she couldn't hear anything except her own heart pounding in her throat. She ran, her skin prickling with apprehension. She thought she saw a figure moving in the shadows by the side of the building. She raised her gun, slowing minutely, struggling to see through the shifting shadows.
There! Coming closer.
She sighted, her finger depressing the trigger just short of the firing pressure, when another movement far off to her right caught her eye. She jerked her head around in time to see the top car on the Ferris wheel swinging lazily, seemingly suspended in mid-air with only shafts of moonlight to hold it aloft.
"Savard," she called into the dark, not bothering to lower her voice. She was fully exposed and, at this range, defenseless. If he was going to fire at her there was nothing she could do. At least she could make sure he didn't get away. "He's on the Ferris wheel. Go!"
Just then, Grant appeared out of the shadows in front of the refreshment stand, calling, "All clear here, Commander."
Cam's shout to take cover was lost to the night as the building disintegrated in a flash of orange heat and flying debris.
Savard was hit from behind by a rushing tornado of hot air that momentarily lifted her off the ground. She tucked her head and dove into a forward shoulder roll, letting the momentum of the blast carry her back onto her feet. Her gun was out and in her hand and, miraculously, she had managed to hold on to it. She refused to think about what had just happened. She couldn't think about Grant and Roberts now. She had only one thought.
As she approached the Ferris wheel, she saw a thin shadow nimbly descending the exterior frame. She was a hundred yards away, and at that range - in the dark - she wasn't certain she would be able to hit him. If he made it to the ground, he would quickly disappear amidst the jungle of twisted metal and tumbled-down structures. She tried again to notify Doyle and the SWAT team of her location, but there was no response. Communications were still blacked out.
As she closed the distance, she got a clearer view of the figure that had just reached the ground, and for a split second, she hesitated. He was wearing a uniform. Could he be an advance lookout Doyle hadn't briefed them about? Or one of their own people who had just wandered too far into the perimeter?
She realized her mistake when he turned and fired, and that second of uncertainty cost her. By the time she registered the muzzle flash, she'd been hit and was already falling, a hot flash of pain spearing her left shoulder.
God it was much worse than she ever imagined.
The force spun her around and knocked her flat on her back. For a second she couldn't breathe at all. When she got her air back, she had to swallow a scream. Then she blanked her mind of everything except the image of him turning and firing. At her.
The pain receded behind her next reaction - anger. She was furious at him for shooting her, and even more furious at herself for letting him take her by surprise. She rolled to her side and got her feet under her. In the next second she was moving again. Her left arm hung uselessly, but her gun hand still worked. She could see his back as he agilely vaulted a turnstile that had once been part of an admission booth. In another instant, he'd be gone. Her vision was starting to blur and she was running out of time. Her arm was soaked with blood; she could feel it streaming off her fingers onto the ground. She drew down and fired.
The second blast was even larger than the first. And this time, the shockwave catapulted her into oblivion.
Mac tried furiously to re-establish contact, but no one was answering him. "Commander? Stark?"
Blair continued to type queries to Loverboy, but there were no further responses.
"What's happening?" she asked urgently. The three agents looked grim, and the eerie quiet that hung in the air made Blair's blood run cold. She struggled for composure and lost. "What the hell is going on?"
"All our communication lines are down," Mac said grimly. "Loverboy was probably transmitting from a wireless connection at the rendezvous site. He's there, and he knows that you're not."
Blair got to her feet, her entire body trembling. "Someone better find out right now what's happening out there, or I'm going myself."
"Ms. Powell," Lindsey Ryan said quietly, putting her hand on Blair's arm very gently, almost as if she were afraid of startling her, "we'll get word here faster than anywhere else. Give Mac a minute."
Mac switched to the speakers and attempted to boost the signals. "Stark, come in please. Do you copy? Stark, goddamn it! Do you hear me?"
A garbled, fitful transmission crackled through. At first, all Blair could make out were fragments of words but what she could hear was enough to take her legs out from under her. She reached blindly for a chair and sat heavily.
"… explosion… shots fired… agents down…"
"Who?" Blair asked faintly, her eyes moving from one agents' face to the other, trying desperately to read their expressions. "Mac, ask her who."
"Can you clarify?" Mac asked woodenly, forcing down the quick surge of panic Stark's message produced. He clenched his fists and concentrated, straining for her words.
More static, then..."Evacuating injured…will advise."
Then there was only silence, a silence so final that the three of them - impotent witnesses to a nightmare - stood numbly, not looking at one another. Blair closed her eyes and wondered how it was that she could still feel her heart beating, because something inside of her was dying.
The icy stillness was shattered by the ringing of the landline. They all stared at it for a second, and then Mac snatched it up, listening intently. Blair watched him anxiously, hoping for some sign that her fears were unfounded, but the grim set of his jaw never changed. He replaced the receiver and stood up.
"That was Fielding. Ambulances are en route with the injured to the trauma unit at Beth Israel."
"Who?" Blair asked quietly, prepared, she thought, to hear him say the words. She must be ready, because she was so cold inside. Frozen. "Please -- who?"
"No ID yet," he answered, looking around for his blazer, "but Stark went with one of the ambulances, so I assume some of them are our people." He pulled his jacket on as he turned toward the door. "I'll call you as soon as I have any information, Ms. Powell."
Blair moved quickly, blocking his way, an incredulous look on her face. "You can't be serious. I'm going with you."
Mac stopped short and, although it took effort, said as calmly as he could manage, "I'm afraid you can't do that, Ms. Powell. I don't have a full complement of agents available now, and I don't even know the status of the rest of the team. I can't provide security. I can't…"
"Mac," Blair said tightly, wondering how it was that she hadn't begun screaming, "either you take me or I get a cab. But there's no way I'm not going."
"He's right, Ms. Powell," Felicia Davis said quietly. "We're short-handed, and we don't even know if the UNSUB has been apprehended. It's not safe. The Commander will have Mac's - uh - head if he takes you out there. It's going to be chaos."
Blair almost smiled, imagining Cam's expression, and thinking that Davis was probably right - she'd be seriously annoyed. And then she realized she might never see Cam again, might never touch her again, and the cold dark place where she locked away her fears began to bleed. When she spoke, she couldn't quite hide the pain. "I'll make sure Commander Roberts knows it was my doing."
Perhaps it was the way her voice broke when she said Cam's name, but Lindsey Ryan spoke up, her voice not only calming, but comforting. "Agent Phillips, there are three of us here. We certainly should be adequate security for Ms. Powell's transport to the hospital. Once there, I assume there will be other members of your team available to assist."
Blair shot her a grateful look.
Mac relented, because he couldn't physically restrain the First Daughter, and it was plain to him that she was going one way or the other. "All right then, let's do it."
At first all she could see through the car window as they approached the hospital were emergency vehicles parked haphazardly in the small lot in front of the entrance. Light bars atop ambulances and police cars sent intersecting beams of red and blue strobing wildly into the night sky, reflecting eerily off the double glass doors of the trauma bay. Hospital personnel and law enforcement officers of all description rushed everywhere. She searched the crowd of State Police, plain-clothes federal agents and SWAT team members in full riot gear, but the one unmistakable form she sought was absent.
God damn it Cam, don't you dare do this. Don't you leave me now.
Blair realized that she wasn't breathing. She also realized that there would be reporters there by now. And photographers. By the time Felicia Davis held the door open for her and she stepped from the car, she had composed herself.
Mac took her right arm and began to draw her through the crowd. Lindsey Ryan was just behind her left shoulder and Felicia Davis cleared the way in front. When they reached the sliding glass doors that marked the trauma entrance, a large harried-looking hospital security guard blocked their way.
"Sorry. You can't go back there."
Mac extended his right hand with his badge, but the guard's attention had focused on Blair. His eyes widened slightly, and he said in a slightly awed tone, "Miss Powell! I - uh - I didn't recognize you - sorry - uh - just one minute. I'll get a detachment to escort you."
"No," Mac said sharply. "That's not necessary." The last thing he wanted was a bunch of star struck guards trying to be helpful and making his job more difficult. "We just need to get back to the triage area. Can you direct us?
The security officer looked like he was about to protest, but he must have seen something in Mac's face that made him change his mind. "Straight on through, past the automatic doors at the end of the hall," he responded crisply. "It's a mess back there, though."
Once inside the main admitting region, the noise level dropped, but there were still scores of people clogging the hallway and emergency carts and equipment everywhere. Blair stared at the floor, and realized that the congealing trails of crimson were blood.
"Oh god," she whispered faintly.
Lindsey looked at her in concern. "Why don't we find someplace less public to wait while Mac finds the others?"
"Let's go back to the treatment area and I'll see what I can find out," Mac agreed. He was feeling a little overwhelmed himself. He and Ellen Grant had worked together for several years, even before Egret's detail, and they were friends. He liked Renee Savard. And the Commander - how he felt about her was too complicated to explain. He just knew he didn't want to think about her going down again. When they stepped through the solid gray doors bearing the sign, "Trauma Admitting - Authorized Personnel Only", he was relieved to see a familiar figure in the doorway of one of the treatment cubicles.
"Stark!" he called.
Stark stared at them, looking slightly dazed. There was blood on her shirt and hands, and a darkening smear along the angle of her jaw. Before she could respond, she was forced to step aside as a transport team came out of the room behind her, pushing a stretcher bearing a portable respirator, bags of intravenous fluid and blood, and a cardiac defibrillator. Barely recognizable in the midst of the equipment lay Renee Savard.
Blair caught only a brief glance of Savard's pale, unresponsive face as the medical team rushed her down the hall toward the elevators. Stark started after the stretcher, but a nurse gently took her arm and murmured something to her. A moment later the elevator doors slid closed and Savard was gone. Stark's shoulders slumped and she leaned heavily against the wall. When Mac began to move toward her, Blair stopped him.
"Just a minute, Mac. Let me talk to her."
He nodded. "I'll go find someone who can tell me what's going on."
Blair stepped forward and put both hands on Stark's shoulders. She looked intently into her face. "Paula," she said gently, "are you hurt? You're covered in blood."
"It's hers," Stark said, her voice choked and low. Her gaze met Blair's, a world of agony swimming below the surface of her dark eyes. "There was so much of it. I tried - the best I could. It wouldn't seem to stop."
"Where is Cam, Paula?" Blair asked, trying hard to keep calm. Let her be here. Just let her be all right. "Agent Stark?"
Stark was clearly in shock, but if someone didn't tell her something soon, Blair was afraid that she might start running up and down the halls screaming out Cam's name. She was about to come apart and she was scared to death that she would never get the pieces together again. "Stark," she whispered desperately, "please."
"I think-I think," Paula Stark began, then lost her thread. She was having trouble thinking about anything except how pale Renee had looked and how much blood there had been on the ground and on her clothes and how cold she felt when Stark had put her arms around her and held her until the evac team arrived. She hesitated and swallowed and tried to get control of her racing heart and her shaking legs. Finally, she cleared her throat and forced herself to straighten up. "I didn't see Grant or the Commander, but to the best of my knowledge they were transported here, too. Grant went to the OR right away, I think. I'm not sure about the Commander."
Blair closed her eyes. She must be alive. They wouldn't bring her here if she weren't. Would they?
"Thank you," Blair said quietly after a moment. She looked over her shoulder and motioned to the two agents behind her. "Agent Davis, would you please take Agent Stark somewhere where she can lie down for a few minutes?"
"I'll do that," Lindsey Ryan said quickly. She thought it best that a Secret Service Agent stay with the President's daughter until they had some idea of what had happened. As Lindsey put her arm around the unresisting dark-haired agent, Mac returned.
"All I can find out is that Savard is listed as critical with a gunshot wound to the shoulder. Hit just where her vest stopped. Goddamned lucky shot," he added bitterly. "Grant has a skull fracture and a collapsed lung. The commander is -" He stopped and Blair's heart stopped, too.
Don't say it, Mac. Don't say it. Don't sa-
Then from behind them came one word. "Blair."
Blair spun around, her heart leaping. Cam stood just a few feet away. She didn't think about anything - not the federal agents, not the reporters, not the public - she just reached for her.
Cam opened her arms and pulled Blair close, holding her tightly. Blair was trembling. She lowered her head, brushing her lips against her ear, and said quietly, "I'm all right. Do you hear me? I'm all right."
Blair nodded, not trusting herself to speak. She pressed her lips to Cam's shoulder, wanting her mouth, but knowing she couldn't. Not right there, not with everyone right there. She hadn't lost that much of her mind, and the solid reassurance of Cam's body instantly calmed her. Blair stepped away, although letting Cam go was the hardest thing she had ever done in her life. Her entire body ached for the feel of her lover in her arms. Blair's hands shook she wanted to touch her so badly, just to be sure that she was still there. Just to be sure that she hadn't lost her.
"Are you hurt?" Blair's eyes darted over her, trying to reassure herself that Cam was in one piece. Blair's gaze narrowed as she studied her. Cam's face was white and her usually sharp, clear eyes were dull. She had shed her jacket and protective vest and her shirt was soaked with sweat and grime and patches of something that looked a lot like blood. A hot flash of anger flared in Blair's depths. Not with the woman, not even with the job, but with the relentless maniac that had tried to take Cam from her. She wanted to kill him herself. "Cam? Are you hurt?"
Cam was careful not to shake her head, because she was dizzy and the ringing in her ears affected her balance and she was afraid too much motion would make her vomit. "Not much. Scrapes and bruises. A bump on the head. I won't be hearing the high notes for a while."
Blair was instantly suspicious. "Just what exactly happened to you?"
Cam got that evasive look she thought Blair didn't recognize, and before she could answer, Blair added, "And if you don't tell me the whole thing right now, I'll find the doctors and ask myself."
"A minor concussion," Cam admitted with a sigh. She ran her fingers lightly down Blair's arm. "Nothing time won't take care of."
"And they released you?" Blair persisted.
"Well, not exactly," Cam confessed. She didn't blame Blair for being angry with her. She was only grateful that Blair hadn't been there to witness the doctors trying to convince her to be admitted overnight for observation. Now that would have been messy. "I'm kind of on my own recognizance at the moment."
"Damn it, Cam," Blair seethed, keeping her voice low, aware that there were others nearby. "Don't do this to me."
"I have things I need to take care of," Cam continued urgently, taking her hand. "I have two people upstairs in the operating room, Blair. I have families to contact, supervisors to inform. I have my agents to see to. I have to be here."
As much as she didn't want to, Blair let go of Cam's hand. She took a deep breath and counted to ten. "Will you promise me that if you start to feel ill you'll let the doctors look at you? Promise me that."
"I will," Cam said, her expression grateful. "I swear, Blair."
Blair nodded, relenting because that was the best she could get at the moment. And she knew that Cam would not lie to her. "And the minute that you hear about them you'll get some rest?"
"Agreed," Cam said with a faint smile. "Will you let Mac take you home?"
"I'd like to stay until there's some word."
Cam heard the true caring in her voice. She looked around, relieved to see her team nearby. "Of course. I'll have Fielding find a room where you can wait. I'll tell you the second I hear."
"Thank you," Blair said softly. "Take good care of yourself, Commander."
"I will," Cam murmured, losing herself for just an instant in her eyes. "I'm glad that you're here, you know."
"That's a good thing," Blair whispered, "because nothing could have kept me away."
Nine hours later, Cam walked into the command center and regarded the remains of her team. Most of them had never gone home but instead had voluntarily taken turns rotating between there and the hospital. As she expected, Stark was among them. The young agent appeared pale and shaky and she had that haunted look in her eyes that Cam knew would linger a long time.
"The conference room," she said as she walked through.
A few minutes later, she stood at the head of the table, as she had so many times before, and looked at each of them in turn. Finally, she said quietly, "We got him. Nice job, everybody."
Then she opened the cover of a thick file folder and tossed it into the center of the table, a color photograph of a male in uniform clipped to the first page. "State Trooper James Raymond Harker. Ten years ago he was detached to Governor Powell's security detail."
For a moment there was stunned silence, then Stark muttered vehemently, "Bastard."
"I can't believe it," Mac said, obviously distressed. He glanced at the picture then passed the file to the person next to him. "Why weren't we onto this? Background checks should have turned up something."
"This information stays in this room," Cam said quietly. She had to work at keeping her own anger in check as she continued, "Apparently, the FBI task force ran background checks soon after Egret alerted them that she was receiving email from Loverboy. They cleared everyone who had ever had anything to do with her security."
Mac interrupted with a derisive laugh. "Sure - they checked all of us out."
Cam nodded grimly. "Unfortunately, there appears to have been a breakdown in their internal communications, and the security officers assigned to Egret when her father was the governor were never checked. Harker, AKA Loverboy, was one of them."
Fielding raised his head sharply. "Does that mean this nutcase was shadowing her for over 10 years?"
"Lindsey Ryan says it's possible," Cam said, struggling to keep the loathing from her voice. The fact that he would have killed Blair was only part of what made it so abhorrent. Cam was sickened by the very idea that this psychopath had probably watched Blair from the time she was teenager. Worst of all, she knew Blair would never be completely free from idle curiosity and might someday become the object of someone else's obsession. She shoved the thought away. She had to get through this, and then maybe she could lie down and the pounding in her head would stop. "Whatever happened, the FBI will clean up their own mess."
"Yeah, right," Mac snarled. "Except we've had to pay the price for their foul up. First you, then Jeremy, and now Grant."
"Update on the injured," Cam continued, ignoring Mac's remark although privately she agreed with him. From what she had heard from Stewart Carlisle, SAC Doyle was getting all the credit for the takedown. She didn't begrudge the FBI that, because Savard had been the one to stop him. This was not about who got the glory, but about the fact that Blair was no longer in danger, at least for the moment. For that, she would always be grateful to Renee Savard. The fact that Doyle had nearly gotten Ellen Grant killed was another issue, and she would not soon forget that.
Her mind was wandering. She took a deep breath, trying to clear her head. "Grant is awake and says for none of you to touch her desk. Said she'll know if there's a pencil missing." Cam smiled faintly. "She'll be discharged in five to six days and back on duty in six weeks if the next CAT scan is clear. "
She glanced at Stark once, quickly, and then continued quietly, "Renee Savard is still unconscious in the intensive care unit, but the surgeons are optimistic. She lost a lot of blood, but apparently no critical structures in her shoulder were involved. In the absence of any unforeseen complications, they're predicting a full recovery."
She looked at the people gathered around the table and said, "We owe her. She stepped up for us and even after she was hit, she managed to get this guy. No one is exactly sure yet what happened, but he was probably carrying another explosive device that he either hadn't had time to dispose of or that he was planning on planting somewhere else. The ATF commander tells me that the shockwaves from a bullet impacting anywhere near a high-order explosive can trigger it. She hit him, and his own bomb took him out. We're waiting for forensics to give us the final ID, but Harker was missing after the action and everything else fits. When we ran our own background check, it turns out that he had applied to the Secret Service before he joined the troopers and had been denied for psychological reasons. I guess the state system never turned up that information with a computer check of his application. Not surprising, since none of our systems are interfaced."
Now came the hard part. "I looked at the tapes from the explosion in Central Park. Harker was the trooper standing next to Jeremy's car. He probably placed the device right there."
The silence was heavy with sorrow and fury.
"He's also the one who pulled me away from the car that day. I don't know why."
Lindsey had told her that it might be something as simple as the fact that Harker didn't want anything or anyone to alter his plan - that he needed to be the one to determine who should live, and who should die - and when.
Mac slid Harker's file back to her, and Cam closed it with a sense of finality. "Egret is due to leave for San Francisco in a little over a week. She's staying with Diane Bleeker for a few days until some of the publicity dies down. I'll review her plans with you when I know them. Mac, would you set up the shifts please."
"Right," he said quietly.
She knew they needed to mourn Jeremy's loss. She also knew what else they needed. "I want everyone except the current shift to go home and get some rest. If there's news from the hospital, I'll see that you're notified. I need you all back here by tomorrow, and I need you to be sharp. We still have a job to do."
As the others in the room stood to leave, she added, "Stark, a moment please."
Cam waited until the room had cleared, and then she closed the door. Turning to Stark, she said, "Take a couple days leave time, Stark. You look like hell."
"I'm fine, Commander," Stark replied quickly, stiffening as her eyes flashed with anger. "I'll be ready to take the evening shift."
Cam smiled faintly and rested a hip against the corner of the table. She looked away for a second, and when she returned her gaze to Stark, she let the sadness show. "What happened out there is hard for everyone, Stark. Having friends and colleagues in danger, seeing them injured - it affects us all." She paused, not needing the memory to feel the terrible sense of helplessness, the horrible hopelessness. She'd never forget it. "It's much harder when it's someone you care about. I know."
Stark stared at her in surprise. Maybe it was the sympathy in Cam's voice or the shared sorrow that finally undid her, but she sat quickly and covered her face with her hands, hiding the tears that she couldn't hold back any longer. It took her a few minutes to get hold of herself, and then she sank back in the chair and said, "I'm sorry. I think I'm just tired. I know she's going to be all right, but I can't stop thinking about the way she looked lying on that stretcher."
"Savard is tough, and she's going to be fine."
"She sure kicked some ass, didn't she?" Stark said with a grin, her spirits bolstered by the certainty in Cam's voice.
"That she did," Cam agreed.
Stark rose wearily and said, "Thank you, Commander. I think I will request a few days personal time, just so I can - you know - visit the hospital and stuff."
Cam smiled. "A very good idea, Agent."
Cam waited until the room had cleared, and then she made her way slowly downstairs. She flagged down a cab and gave him the Upper East Side address. She was asleep before he pulled away from the curb.
"Well," Diane Bleeker said as she stood in the open doorway, "I've waited a long time to see you at my door, Commander."
Cam grinned tiredly. "Sorry."
"Don't be," Diane said with a laugh. "Some things are definitely worth waiting for."
Cam glanced at several suitcases standing by the door. "Going somewhere?"
"Just a three-day weekend," Diane said nonchalantly. Then she raised an eyebrow, a speculative look on her face. "A spur of the moment kind of thing."
"Thank you." Cam knew that Diane was leaving to give her and Blair a little time alone. "I appreciate it."
Diane ran her fingers lightly down Cam's arm, lingering just a moment on her hand. "Oh, believe me, Commander, anything I can do to help."
"You might want to take your hands off her, Diane," Blair said softly from behind them. "I'm terribly short of patience at the moment."
Diane turned to smile at her old friend. "When did you lose your sense of humor, Blair?"
Blair looked past Diane to Cam, who still stood waiting at the door, rumpled and pale and just about the best looking thing she had ever seen. She ached to get her hands on her, her arms around her, her skin on her skin. Blair's voice was low, throaty with emotion, when she murmured, "I think it was along about the second time my stalker tried to kill her."
Diane stepped aside, because she had watched Blair pace and worry and stare out the window for the last few hours, restlessly waiting. She could never remember seeing her so undone, and so clearly suffering. "Well then, since that's the way it is, I'll make myself scarce."
Blair touched Diane's shoulder briefly in thanks as her friend grasped her suitcases and left, but her eyes never moved from Cam's face. When they were alone, she came slowly forward and took Cam's hand. "Come with me."
Cam was too tired to question or protest. The dizziness had abated, but the headache persisted and probably would for days. Mostly, she was weary. There had been too much violence and injury and loss, and she was worn down by it, body and soul. All she really wanted was to lie down next to Blair and close her eyes.
Blair led her through the apartment and into the bathroom, closing the door. She turned and began unbuttoning Cam's shirt. Cam lifted her hands to help, but Blair brushed her fingers away gently. "No. Let me."
Tenderly, Blair undressed her, being careful to ease the clothing off the patches of bruises and abrasions covering her back. She tried not to think of what had put them there, but she couldn't help imagining Cam flung to the ground, rocks and debris raining down on her during the blast.
"It isn't as bad..." Cam began, sensing her hesitate, but Blair stopped her.
"Yes, I know. It isn't as bad as it looks." She put it from her mind for the moment. When she had Cam naked, she took off her own clothes. She started the water in the shower and drew Cam in with her.
"Oh God," Cam groaned softly. "That feels so good."
"Mmm," Blair responded, finally beginning to relax herself. She reached for the soap and worked the lather over Cam's body.
"And that feels even better," Cam whispered, her eyes closing. She was nearly asleep standing up. The hot steam and Blair's soft hands lulled her into a state of near torpor. By the time Blair was finished washing Cam's hair, she wasn't sure she would be able to remain standing.
"I'm not going to be much good for anything in another minute," Cam murmured, her speech slurred with fatigue.
Blair wrapped her in a large towel and brushed the damp hair back from her forehand. She kissed her gently on the mouth. "Believe me, Commander, you are good for a great many things, which I'm sure you'll remember after a little sleep. If not," she added as she led the way to the bedroom, "I'll be sure to remind you."
Renee Savard opened her eyes and tried to focus on the figure leaning over her. Finally, she said, "Hi."
Stark smiled. "Hi yourself."
Savard carefully took stock, assuring herself that she could feel the bed covers touching each foot and each hand. Then she wiggled her fingers and toes, finally sighing with relief. "Apparently everything is working, yeah?"
"The doctors say you'll be fine," Stark said, a small catch in her voice.
"You want to give me a rundown of what 'fine' means?" Savard said quietly.
"I guess the doctors should probably do that," Stark hedged.
"Paula," Savard said, and this time her voice trembled. "I'd prefer hearing it from you."
"Hey," Stark said gently, reaching for her hand, cradling her fingers between her own palms. "You're okay, Renee, really. You took a bullet in the left shoulder. They said it pretty much severed the major vein from your arm. But the nerves are okay -- they think you'll have a little weakness for a few months. You bled like hell though, and they gave you transfusions for that. You've been out of it for a day and a half because of all the anesthesia and the shock. But, you're going to be fine, Renee."
Savard closed her eyes for a few seconds, and when she opened them, her smile was stronger. "That doesn't sound too bad. A little rehab and I should be back in the field, right?"
"Don't see why not," Stark said positively, although at the moment she didn't want to think about that. She still couldn't shake the feeling of terror she'd had when she'd found her on the ground, lying so still, covered in blood.
"Did I get him?" Savard asked.
This time, Stark's smile was brilliant and her eyes flickered with something hard and edgy. "Oh yeah, you got him. You got him in about a million pieces. He took a little unexpected ride on his own rocket fuel. Straight to hell, I hope." She forced back the rage. Later. There would be time to let it out later. "You're a hero, Renee. You deserve all the credit you get."
Savard shook her head. "I don't think so, Paula. Roberts was all over it out there. If it hadn't been for her..." She broke off abruptly and her eyes widened, more fear-filled than when she had first awakened and realized that she was in a hospital bed. "Oh God! Is she all right? Ellen Grant? What about Grant? There was an explosion..."
"They're both okay," Stark said quickly. "Grant will be in here a while but the Commander has already been released."
Rene closed her eyes for a few seconds. "Thank God," she murmured. God, is it finally over then? She was beginning to remember -- running through the dark, the flash of the explosion, the tearing pain in her shoulder.
Stark frowned when she realized that Savard was trembling. "I should go. You need to rest."
Savard opened her eyes again. Softly, she said, "You look like you could use some, too."
"Yeah, maybe," Stark said with a sheepish grin. She was actually about to fall down she was so tired. But she couldn't leave just yet. "So...uh...Savard -- just in case you have any memory problems, you know -- from this little...uh, episode...I...uh...wanted to remind you that we -- you know -- have a date. Right?"
Renee Savard smiled, and this time her eyes sparkled with their old vitality. "You don't need to worry, Agent Stark. It would take more than a bullet to make me forget that."
When Cam awoke, she was naked in bed and Blair was beside her. For a few moments, she lay quietly, simply luxuriating in the feel of Blair's arm possessively draped across her body. She liked the weight of it, the quiet reminder that she belonged there--with her.
"He's really dead, isn't he?" Blair said into the still darkness, part statement, part question.
"Yes," Cam said, reaching for Blair's hand, interlacing her fingers with Blair's and squeezing gently. "We don't have a positive ID, but I expect that we will when the forensics people are finished."
"Who was he?"
Cam hesitated for a second, and then said quietly, "He was a State Trooper assigned to your security detail about ten years ago - when your father was still governor."
Blair rolled onto her side and pressed tightly against Cam's body, nestling her face against her shoulder. After a moment, she said, "I don't remember him. I don't remember any of them."
"There's no reason that you should," Cam said gently. She brushed her fingers lightly over the curve of Blair's breast, and Blair shivered in her arms. "We're not supposed to be memorable. We're supposed to do our job and keep out of your life."
There was an edge of bitterness in her voice that she couldn't quite hide. Harker had tarnished so many things she valued. Dishonoring his oath was the least of his sins. It enraged her every time she thought of him watching Blair with his fevered distorted longings, all the time that he had been entrusted with her care.
"I seem to have quite a few pleasant memories of you though, Commander," Blair whispered softly, rubbing her palm lightly over Cam's chest, chasing away her demons.
Cam's swift intake of breath followed fast on the surge of excitement that rippled through her. She shifted so they were face to face and she kissed her way along the edge of Blair's jaw to the corner of her mouth. "Let's make a few more."
Blair pushed Cam down and moved on top of her, straddling her hips. "Let's."
"I love the way you look when you're on top of me," Cam murmured, reaching for her breasts.
Blair leaned forward, catching her lower lip between her teeth as Cam's knowing fingers closed on her nipples. She rocked, slow easy strokes, teasing herself as well as her lover as her wetness coated Cam's stomach. When the pressure began to peak and the tingling started on the insides of her thighs, she dropped her head and closed her eyes, bracing herself with her hands against the mattress on either side of Cam's shoulders. Her breath came in uneven sobs as she gave herself to the escalating urgency between her legs, pressing harder, faster. Soon, it would be impossible to stop.
She forced her eyes open and struggled to focus on Cam's face. "Should I wait?" she gasped.
"No," Cam rasped, barely able to force the words out her chest felt so tight. "You're so beautiful when you come."
Cam brought one hand down between them and slipped her fingers between Blair's legs, cupping her as she thrust.
"Oh Cam," Blair moaned, riding hard on Cam's hand. She jerked once and then she was gone. As the spasms continued to bombard her, she collapsed against Cam's chest, groaning softly.
"Sorry," Blair finally murmured. "I seem to be afflicted with terminal lust."
"Nice," Cam remarked, running her hands up and down her back. "Have I mentioned lately that I find you terminally sexy?"
Blair laughed, leaning up on one elbow and shaking the hair back from her face. "You think we're safe together?"
Cam stroked her face, then raised her head and kissed her gently. "Oh yes. Quite safe."
"Are we free now?" Blair asked, suddenly serious.
But they both knew that wasn't quite true.
"I'd prefer that you not scare the hell out of me again for a while," Blair said, pressing her lips to Cam's bare shoulder, tasting the light tang of salt and feeling her desire rise again.
Cam brushed a kiss into her hair. "I have no intention of scaring you again at any time. I know it's hard to believe at the moment, but these situations are extremely rare. I hope you'll be able to believe that someday."
"You're not resigning, are you?"
"I don't want to," Cam said quietly. She tightened her grip and held Blair closer when she felt her stiffen. "It's what I do, Blair, and it feels right to me. It lets me be with you more than I would be able to under any other circumstances. I don't want to see you for a night every couple of months. Not for the next seven years."
Blair tried hard to put her fear aside and to listen to what Cam was telling her. She couldn't deny the reality of the situation, because if Cam were not part of her security detail, it would be very hard for them to be together. It would still be hard for them to have a personal life, but that was not a new challenge for her. She had been working outside the system in that regard all her life. She sighed.
"I don't know if it will work, but I'm willing to try."
"If it doesn't work," Cam assured her, "I'll do whatever I have to do. Blair, I love you."
Blair moved on top of her and looked intently into her face. "We'll both do whatever we need to do, Cam. Because I love you, too."
"Is that so?" Cam murmured, catching Blair's fingers and pressing a kiss to her palm. Then, she moved Blair's hand down her body. "Perhaps you could repeat that."
Blair laughed, watching Cam's eyes as she touched her. "As you wish, Commander."
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