Mac was on the sofa, looking exhausted, when Savard returned to the room. He asked quietly, "Is she okay?"
Savard sank down on the couch next to him and blew out a deep breath. "She's got to be hurting like hell, but it's nothing that won't heal."
They regarded one another cautiously, each trying to judge the other's frame of mind. They were on opposite teams, in a manner of speaking, and had only been working together a few days. A few days that felt like a century.
Finally, Mac said, "Do you have any idea what that was all about?"
Savard chose her words carefully, aware of the fact that she was only on temporary loan to the Secret Service, and that ultimately she would have to survive within the hierarchy of the FBI. On the other hand, she would never defend someone like Patrick Doyle, even if it did mean risking her career. "Special Agent in Charge Doyle does not confide in me, Agent Phillips," she said quietly.
"However," Savard continued, "speaking only as an observer, I would say the man has a hard-on for her."
Mac blinked, then grinned broadly. "Well then, he's going to wait a long time for a little relief."
"I'd say that's the truth," Savard said, grinning back. Then, she added seriously, "I don't know what's going on with him. At first I thought it was just bureau politics. But it seems like it's more than that, and I don't know him well enough to speculate."
Mac propped his feet up on the coffee table, suddenly aware of how very tired he was. "It's bad enough that we have to worry about Egret. Now we have to worry about Doyle and the Commander."
"I don't really think you have to worry about your commander, Mac," Savard responded. "She's a little torn up at the moment, but once she has her feet back under her, I'm sure she can handle him. She didn't get as far as she has by being pushed around by men who resented her position or her competence. I think we should all concentrate on catching Loverboy and let the Commander handle Doyle herself."
Mac sighed in agreement. "Sounds like a plan to me."
"Have you seen Stark?" Savard asked casually.
"The last time I saw her she was talking to Lindsey Ryan in the kitchen.
Savard raised an eyebrow and stood. "Was she now?"
Mac watched her walk away and wondered why he felt like he never really knew what was going on around him.
It was sometime after one a.m. when Cam stepped into the darkened hallway. She closed her door quietly behind her and turned, meeting the eyes of Renee Savard, who stood watch next to the window nearby. The hallway was in shadow, but there was enough light coming from the lamps in the living room to illuminate their faces. They studied one another silently. Then, very deliberately, Savard turned her back to Cam and looked out the window into the night. Cam crossed the few feet to the opposite side of the hall and opened the door to Blair Powell's bedroom.
She waited just inside the room for her eyes to adjust.
"Is this an official visit, Commander?" Blair said quietly from the darkness.
"Then I'll leave the lights off."
Cam made her way to the side of the bed and eased down on the edge, reaching for Blair's hand with her uninjured one. "I'm sorry about earlier. I didn't mean to worry you quite so badly."
"How do you feel?"
"Better." She hesitated a beat, and then added, because she knew she had to tell her, "The damn thing hurts like hell, but I'm not dizzy and my stomach has settled. I'm okay."
"Did you come here to give me a personal medical report?" Blair asked sharply. Relieved of her worry, she remembered how angry she was. She sat up against the pillows, acutely aware of the fact that she was naked under the light sheet. "Because if that's why you're here, you can consider your duty done."
Cam was wearing only a thin sleeveless T-shirt and a pair of sweatpants. Blair had opened the windows, and the August air hung hot around them.
"No," Cam said softly, circling her thumb in the palm of Blair's hand. "I came because I couldn't sleep."
Blair's pulse began to hammer, but she steadfastly ignored it. This was one time she was not going to let her body rule her better judgment. "This isn't going to work, Cam," she said quietly.
A cold hand closed around Cam's heart, making it hard for her to breathe, but she answered calmly, "Why not?"
"You know why not. We've been all through this before. Because I can't stand caring about you and knowing that you might be hurt because of me. I can't do it. I don't want to risk feeling anything for you."
"If we were crossing the street," Cam said as if Blair had not just driven a knife into her depths, "and a car were about to hit me, would you push me out of the way even though you might be hurt yourself?"
"Yes," Blair said softly, "but the odds of that happening are almost zero."
"I know," Cam said, moving her hand to Blair's shoulder, running her fingertips lightly along the ridge of Blair's collarbone. "And the odds of me dying to save you are just as slim. We've just had a run of lousy luck."
Blair laughed harshly, trapping Cam's hand in hers to stop the undeniable excitement that the mere brush of her fingertips started inside. "Well, I'm not trusting anything to luck. Either you resign from my detail, or I don't want anything to do with you beyond our daily briefings."
Cam leaned forward and brushed her lips over the tip of Blair's shoulder. "No," she said very softly.
Blair ignored the swift stab of desire that raced through her. "I'm sorry?" she managed, her voice cold.
"No," Cam repeated, moving her mouth a fraction of an inch closer to the base of Blair's neck. She was leaning over her now, her breasts brushing lightly against Blair's bare arm. She felt her nipples stiffen beneath her T-shirt and knew that Blair could feel them too.
"It's not about sex," Blair said harshly, all too aware of the fire burning hotter every second. She was shaking lightly, her skin alive to Cam's touch.
Cam took Blair's hand and pressed it to her chest. Her heart pounded against Blair's palm.
"Neither is this," Cam whispered. "I've tried so hard not to want you. I've tried so hard not to need you. I can't help it. I can't stop it. We didn't choose this, either of us. I can't walk away from it. I can't walk away from loving you, and I can't walk away from doing what I know how to do to keep you safe. Please don't ask me to."
Blair turned her face away, struggling to resist the pull of Cam's words and the sweet seduction of her touch. "I don't want you to love me," she protested, her voice breaking.
Cam pressed her lips to the hollow of Blair's throat. "Yes," she said very softly as she reached under the sheet and gently cupped Blair's breast, "you do."
Blair moaned and arched her back, unable to control the surge of desire. "Damn you, Cameron." But the fine edge of longing was clear in her voice.
"Blair," Cam murmured, nudging the sheet aside. She moved her lips over Blair's chest, found her nipple, and pulled it carefully between her lips. She sucked it slowly as it grew hard and tight, then bit lightly, making Blair groan. She was hard too, and wet, and a pulse pounded demandingly between her thighs. She sat back, gasping with sudden urgency. "Help me get my clothes off."
Blair forced herself to focus through a haze of arousal and saw Cam struggling to pull the T-shirt off one-handed. "Here," she said quickly, sitting forward. "Let me do that."
She carefully worked the fabric down over the bandage on Cam's arm, then directed Cam to stand up, reaching for the ties on the sweatpants. When Cam kicked free of her clothes, Blair caught her uninjured hand and pulled Cam down beside her on the bed. She ran her hand along the length of Cam's body, over her abdomen, down her thigh and back up the inside of her leg.
Cam lifted her hips, breathing rapidly. "You're distracting me again."
Blair ran her fingertips through the thick wet heat between Cam's legs, her breath catching in her throat as her own body clenched in response. "I like distracting you," she murmured.
Cam made an effort to move on top of her and gasped sharply as she pushed up on her injured arm.
"What is it?" Blair asked quickly.
"Just my arm," Cam replied, attempting to direct Blair back onto the pillows with her other hand.
"Lie back, Cam," Blair said firmly. As she spoke, she took Cam's shoulders gently and pushed her down. "Let me."
Cam did not protest. She was still tingling from Blair's brief caress, and she was more than ready for more. "I actually enjoy being distracted," she admitted softly.
Blair laughed quietly and fit herself between Cam's legs, stopping briefly to press her cheek to Cam's breast and brush her lips over her nipple before kissing her way slowly down Cam's abdomen.
Cam closed her eyes with a sigh, a long, low sigh of surrender.
She lifted her hips as Blair's palms pressed against her thighs, opening her; and she arched her back, her muscles tightening, as Blair's lips closed on her; and she caught back a groan, trembling, as Blair's tongue tormented her. Blair's tender, knowing touch banished the pain and the fatigue and the worry.
"You are so good," Cam whispered faintly, her fingers trailing through Blair's hair. She was very close and desperate not to come. "So good."
Blair answered by massaging the spot that made Cam's muscles quiver and quickened her pace, drawing a sharp gasp from Cam. She felt Cam twitch under her tongue and knew she was there. Blair slipped an arm around her and pulled her close, knowing as she took her with her mouth and her hands and her heart, the simple truth of it.
There was no stopping, no turning back, for either of them. Not now. Not the next day. Not ever.
It was almost dawn when Cam left Blair's room. Savard, who had not yet been replaced by someone from the day shift, looked toward Cam as she stepped into the hallway.
Cam walked over to her and stood by her side. Their eyes met as she asked, "Anything to report, Agent Savard?"
"No, ma'am. It was a very quiet night."
"Nothing out of the ordinary then?" Cam asked again. She had a feeling that if Renee Savard had a problem, she'd deal with it out in the open, face to face, and not in some report sent to DC in a sealed folder. And if Renee Savard had a problem with her, Cam wanted it out in the open. There was too much work to be done in the next few weeks that required her full attention, and she couldn't be worried about looking over her shoulder. Loverboy was not going to de-escalate. Not now. And all of them needed to be sharp and focused if they were going to stop him without losing another of their number. "Nothing you wish to discuss?"
"No problems that I am aware of," Savard affirmed. "No activity whatsoever, Commander."
Cam nodded and added, "Very well then. We'll brief at 0700, if you could inform your relief, please."
"Yes ma'am," Savard said and returned her gaze to the window. If someone was going to make trouble about Cameron Roberts and Blair Powell caring for one another, it wasn't going to be her.
Shortly after eight AM, Blair was seated at a small patio table on the rear deck of the house. She had pulled on jeans and a v-neck shirt and was starting on her second cup of coffee. Stark had come out a few moments earlier and had walked down onto the lawn to take up her post there. She was leaning against the corner of the deck, apparently surveying the expanse of lawn and the river beyond.
Blair glanced up as the sliding glass doors opened and Cameron walked out. It was the first time she had seen her since they had parted in the dim pre-dawn light. Blair smiled, enjoying the look of her in her fresh white shirt and tailored trousers. Cam looked rested and pain free, although Blair knew that she hadn't had much sleep. She also noticed the clean bandage on her hand and wondered fleetingly who had done that for her. It might have bothered her more if Cam hadn't been looking at her with such intensity that her skin tingled.
"Good morning, Commander," she called softly, her eyes warm with welcome.
Cam's smile was equally intimate as she approached, a cup of coffee in her left hand. She sat down across from her and said quietly, "Ms. Powell."
The words were as smooth as a caress, and Blair was instantly reminded of the last time they had touched, only hours before. It had been Cam's lips against her neck that had been smooth then, their arms around one another as they stood together by the door.
"I have to go," Cam whispered, her hands running lightly up and down Blair's back. She had pulled on her T-shirt and sweats. Blair was still naked. "I need to get back to work."
"I'm sorry," Cam whispered.
"Don't be," Blair murmured, her arms around Cam's waist, her lips against her neck. She kissed her softly, then a little harder as the stirring began again in the pit of her stomach.
"No fair," Cam whispered.
"I know." Blair pulled away reluctantly, sighing softly. "Go on. Go before I don't let you go."
"Blair, I lo-"
Blair stopped her, gentle fingers against her lips. Cam looked at her, puzzled.
"Don't make any promises, Commander," Blair murmured. "Just tell me you will come back."
"Yes," Cam had whispered, just as she kissed her.
"I'm sorry?" Blair said, realizing that Cam had been speaking to her.
Cam watched Blair's eyes swim into focus, just as they did after they made love and she slowly returned to herself. It was the sexiest thing she had ever seen and she had to concentrate on her words to remember what she had been saying. "The FBI and my team have each independently cleared your building for reoccupancy.
Blair nodded. "I'd like to go home then."
"What do you think?"
Cam shrugged and admitted reluctantly, "I think another day won't matter. I trust my team, and I don't believe that the situation will be any different unless we remain here indefinitely."
Blair smiled, remembering the last two days and the few moments she had been able to have alone with Cam. "There is something to be said for being locked up here with you."
Cam's eyes darkened and her grin was slow and easy. "There is indeed."
Blair's heart rate doubled just in response to the husky familiarity in Cam's voice. Unfortunately, the rest of her responded too, and as much as she enjoyed the sensation, she was all too aware that it might be some time before she could satisfy the pressure beginning to build inside.
She flushed as she watched Cam's gaze fall to her breasts. The width of the table separated them, but she felt the glance as if Cam's hands were on her. Her nipples stiffened under the thin cotton. "Don't do that," she said very quietly, her voice oddly breathy.
"What would that be, Ms. Powell?" Cam murmured, her fingers trembling with the desire to skim along the surface of the soft skin visible at the neck of Blair's shirt. I'm in big trouble.
"Don't look at me like that in public," Blair rejoined softly, "because in case you haven't noticed, self-control has never been my strong suit."
Cam lifted eyes hazy with longing to Blair's. The wanting was a hard ache in her gut. Her chest tight, she whispered, "Then I promise not to tease you - in public."
Blair shivered lightly, like an animal run too hard in the hot sun, and nodded, her voice gone, her blood burning. She had never expected this helplessness in the face of desire. If this was what loving Cameron would mean, she wasn't sure she would survive it.
"I must go," Cam said gently, because leaving her was the last thing she wanted at that moment.
"All right. For now," Blair murmured, following her with her eyes as she walked to the edge of the deck.
Cam stepped down beside Stark and said, "Tell the team we'll be leaving for the Aerie at 1300 hours."
Paula Stark, who appeared to be engrossed in the feeding habits of two fat robins on the lush green lawn, answered, "Yes, ma'am."
Stark heard the patio door open and close and glanced over her shoulder to ascertain that Blair Powell was still within visual range. Seeing that she was, she returned her gaze to the perimeter and her mind to the previous evening. She had been standing almost in this exact spot a little after sundown, when the patio door had slid open then and Renee Savard had walked down the stairs to her side.
"Everything quiet?" Savard asked, leaning one shoulder against the deck support.
"Very," Stark answered, glad for the company. There was nothing quite so long or quite so lonely as the night shift.
"Agent Ryan leave yet?" Savard questioned casually.
"About an hour ago. She left some files for the Commander to review, but she said that she can do more from Quantico where she has better access to the databanks."
"She seems to know what she's doing," Savard appraised honestly.
Stark shifted her weight and automatically slid her hands into her pockets in an unconscious gesture similar to Cameron Roberts. "She's very sharp. I'm glad that the Commander brought her up here today, because now I don't feel like I'm chasing some phantom. At least I have a picture of him in my mind."
Savard nodded in agreement. "Well, I'd certainly rather work with her than some of the hotheads from violent crimes we usually get stuck with on something like this."
Stark laughed in agreement. "Boys with guns."
"Actually, I've always been partial to girls with guns," Savard said with a soft smile.
Stark was grateful for the darkness, because her blush would have been impossible to hide. Suddenly, the night seemed much warmer, and she was acutely aware of the way Renee Savard's voice sounded in the night. Low and smooth and - sexy. She swallowed and managed to answer steadily, "So am I."
"Well, that's nice to know," Savard responded. "When things quiet down a little on this detail, we should see what else we might have in common."
"Uh - that would be a--good," Stark said, cursing herself for sounding like a dolt.
Savard smiled at her. "I don't think that Secret Service agents are supposed to be quite so sweet, Agent Stark. But on you it's very nice."
Stark was trying to think of a clever response when Savard brushed her fingers over the back of her hand and walked away.
Stark jumped and turned quickly toward Blair, who was leaning on the railing looking down at her, a quizzical expression on her face.
"Ma'am?" Stark blushed again. Damn it.
"Would you let the Commander know that I'm ready to go home as soon as she gives the word?"
"Yes, ma'am. I will," Stark assured her, all business once more. According to what Lindsey Ryan had told them the day before, once they left the relative sanctuary of this house, any of them were targets.
Mac held out the phone, a puzzled expression on his face, and said, "Commander? Egret wishes to speak to you."
Cam was bent over one of the nearby desks, replaying a segment of videotape taken in Central Park during Blair's speech. She was specifically studying the crowd in the general vicinity of Marcy Coleman, searching for a slim, 25 to 30-year-old white male, approximately five ten, a hundred and fifty pounds. That was the description Dr. Coleman had given them of the man who had handed her the envelope for Blair Powell.
"I'll take it over here," Cam said immediately, surprised and concerned. Blair rarely contacted her for anything official.
She reached for the receiver, the only indication of her disquiet a faint line between her brows. "Yes?"
"Cameron, can you come up here please?"
There was hollowness in her tone that set Cam's heart racing with anxiety. "Right away. Are you -"
"I'm all right," Blair said hurriedly, but there was a faint tremor in her voice.
"I'm on my way," Cam said, dropping the receiver into the cradle. She headed swiftly toward the door, instructing Mac as she walked, "I want a voice check with all agents. Verify that all agents are at their posts and that they have nothing out of the ordinary to report."
Mac straightened and immediately turned to the monitors, simultaneously activating his transmitter. "Yes, ma'am," he said sharply.
Cam didn't hear his reply because she was already through the door and in the hallway, keying the elevator to Blair's penthouse. Thirty seconds later she was at Blair's door. When the door swung open, Blair was standing just inside, waiting, her face pale. Cam took Blair's shoulders in both her hands and looked intently into her face. "What is it?"
Blair managed a smile, but the smile was faint and her blue eyes were deeply troubled. She extended a white envelope toward Cam. "This came in the mail."
Cam took it and studied the front. Blair's name and address were affixed with a common bulk-mailing label. It looked perfectly ordinary. The return address was for a well-known charity organization.
"I thought it was about a fundraiser," Blair said quietly.
Cam looked inside and the muscles in her stomach tightened. "Have you touched it?"
Blair nodded. "Yes, I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking-"
Cam shook her head. "It doesn't matter. He's never left prints before. Still, we have to go through the motions."
She looked around for something with which to tease out the white rectangle. Blair handed her a large paper clip and she hooked it over the corner of the photograph and slid it out.
Cam silently regarded the image of Diane Bleeker standing in front of her Upper East Side apartment building with a sense of fury and dread. There was a familiar red circle with an x through it drawn centered over her chest. Cam turned over the Polaroid and saw another mailing label affixed to the back. Typed on it were the words: Meet me or she's next
Cam placed the photograph back into the envelope and slipped it into her inside jacket pocket. Then she walked directly to the wallphone in Blair's kitchen and rapidly punched in a series of numbers.
"Give me SAC Doyle immediately, please. This is Commander Cameron Roberts, Secret Service." She looked at Blair as she waited, smiling faintly as if to say it would be all right. Then, she said brusquely into the receiver, "Doyle, this is Roberts. I need you to send a team to Diane Bleeker's apartment at 88th and 5th Avenue ASAP. She's his next possible target. I'll fill you in at Command Central."
Blair said quietly when Cam hung up, "Thank you. I know you probably didn't enjoy making that call."
Cam shrugged dismissively. "The problems between Doyle and me don't matter. Diane does."
"Something has to be done, Cam," Blair said urgently, pacing in agitation. "I can't stand this any longer."
"Blair," Cam began gently, walking back to her, her face filled with concern. "I know how hard this must be for you."
Blair shook her head impatiently. She didn't want sympathy - she wasn't the one being shot at or blown up. "I don't care what it takes, Cam. I don't care what I need to do. I need this to be over."
Cam put her arms around her, pulling her close and holding her tightly. "Soon. I promise. It will be over soon."
Blair did not resist the embrace, but she said stubbornly, her body stiff with fear and frustration, "I'm okay."
"I know you are," Cam murmured, resting her cheek against Blair's hair. "This is for me."
Blair relented, because she needed the comfort of her. She slipped her arms under Cam's jacket, sliding her hands up her back, pressing her face to Cam's shoulder. Her hands met the leather harness of Cam's shoulder holster, and she shuddered briefly. There had been too much loss and it was draining her spirit.
Cam ran her hand lightly up and down Blair's back, caressing her softly. "The FBI are on their way to Diane's now. She'll be safe."
"Who will be next?" Blair said, her voice muffled against Cam's body. "Will it be one of you? Will it be Marcy Coleman - or some poor random person who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time? I can't just stand by and watch it happen. I've got to do something."
Cam's stomach knotted, but she smoothed her hand gently over Blair's hair and pressed her lips to her forehead. "It isn't going to be anyone. We'll stop him. I need you to trust me, Blair."
Blair said nothing, and Cam's heart pounded with sudden alarm. "Blair, please promise me that you won't do anything without discussing it with me. I need you to do that. Please."
Blair leaned back in the circle of Cam's arms and studied her face. There was something close to panic in Cam's eyes. Blair had never seen her look that way before. "Cam-" she whispered, slipping her hand to the back of her neck, stroking her. "Hey."
"I can't lose you," Cam rasped, her throat tight with the anguish, the edges of her mind still raw with old memories.
Her haunted expression tore at Blair's heart. She sighed, and ran her fingers lightly over Cam's cheek. She could no more hurt her than she could stop loving her. "I promise. Just do something, please."
Cam kissed her, a kiss of thanks and tender possession. When she lifted her lips away, she whispered, "I will."
Cameron walked into the conference room at Command Central and nodded to Patrick Doyle. As had become the custom, the FBI were lined up on one side of the table, and her team on the other. She and Doyle faced off once again from opposite ends.
"We have to assume an action from Loverboy is imminent," Doyle said immediately, his preemptive attempt to take charge glaringly obvious.
Unperturbed by his attitude, Cam nodded her agreement as she sat down. She'd played these interagency power games before. "What's the status at Diane Bleeker's apartment building?"
"Our team and the bomb squad are there now," Doyle informed her. "She's been moved temporarily to a secure location."
Cam's face showed no sign of it, but she relaxed as some of her inner tension dissipated. One disaster averted. "I talked to Lindsey Ryan at Quantico and brought her up to date," Cam began. "She believes that this is a real threat, and if he can't access his primary target - Egret, or his designated substitute - Diane Bleeker, then he may choose someone else out of frustration or anger."
She looked around the table, and she knew that she didn't need to repeat what Lindsey Ryan had already told them. Any of them could be next. "Egret will remain sequestered here for the immediate future. She's agreed to postpone her plans for San Francisco, but we only have a two and a half week window until Paris. Then she is going to have to travel, and she'll be visible again."
Vulnerable is what she meant.
Doyle waved a hand in dismissal. "It's unreasonable to keep her out of sight indefinitely," he said, carefully avoiding the suggestion that Blair's visibility was one sure way to draw out their UNSUB. Unconsciously he rubbed the fading abrasion on his neck. "On the other hand, offering Loverboy a meet is the best way to get him out in the open."
Cam saw both Mac and Stark stiffen, and she knew one or both of them was about to vehemently protest. She raised her left hand an inch off the table and both of them settled back in their chairs, their faces set and angry. Cam stared at Patrick Doyle and said very evenly, her voice completely controlled, "Special Agent in Charge Doyle, I am certain that you are not suggesting that we use the President's daughter as bait for a proven psychopathic killer."
Doyle's jaw bunched, and he answered stiffly, "Of course not."
"Then we needn't pursue that line of thought any further," Cam responded, struggling to control her anger. "Egret continues to receive regular email from him. He is using hacked IP numbers and routing messages through random computers so he is still not traceable. As was previously decided, there has been no attempt to block his messages, because it's our only means of judging his state of mind and potentially predicting his moves."
"Well, that's been a royal failure," Doyle remarked harshly.
Cam ignored him and continued. "Agent Ryan suggests that we communicate with him via email, as Egret, in an attempt to get more information about his plans. This seems logical. An agent with computer and electronics expertise will be joining my team later today. She can begin the exchange after Loverboy's next contact."
There was an uncomfortable silence as everyone realized that this new agent would be a replacement for Jeremy Finch.
Doyle broke the silence as he said with a smug smile. "I talked with the Director on the way here. He agrees with me that we need to be more proactive if we're going to resolve this situation."
Cam didn't move an inch although every muscle became rigid. "Meaning?"
"We're planning on initiating contact, just as you suggested, Roberts," Doyle stated with an unmistakable note of condescension. "But we're not interested in dialoguing. We're going to set up a meet."
"A decoy operation?" Mac exclaimed in surprise. "This guy is a bomber. You can't send someone in undercover when she might be walking into a bomb."
"We assessed the risk to be acceptable," Doyle said brusquely. Straightening a pile of folders in front of him, he added, "We expect it will take several days to put things in place. We're bringing in our own person to establish electronic contact with him."
"It's a risky operation, Doyle," Cam said quietly. "There are other avenues we can pursue first."
"We've all waited long enough," Doyle said. He looked pointedly at Cam, his expression accusatory. "Too long."
Cam knew that she had very little to say about an FBI operation. It wasn't what she would've done, but her primary concern was Blair's security, and she admitted to herself reluctantly that the FBI were well within their rights to attempt apprehension their own way.
She pushed back her chair, having registered her dissent. That was all she could do. "I'd appreciate it if you kept us informed of the timetable. In the meantime, I'm going to have my team continue analyzing the videos and photos from the park."
This time, Doyle couldn't hide his triumphant grin.
"No problem there, Roberts. You'll be informed since we're going to be using one of your agents to work the decoy."
Cam placed both hands flat on the table and leaned forward, her body coiled with tension as if she might spring from her chair. Her voice was low, dangerously low, when she said, "No, Doyle, you are not. My agents are Secret Service agents. They are not decoys for the FBI."
Doyle shrugged. "It's already been cleared. We need someone with firsthand knowledge of Egret in case we get into a situation where a verbal exchange with the UNSUB is necessary. I can't brief a new agent on the kinds of things he might ask. The decoy needs to be one of yours."
For a minute, Cam couldn't think through her fury. Doyle had gone behind her back and essentially conscripted one of her agents for a potentially lethal mission. She stood, struggling to maintain her composure. None of them had had much sleep in the last seventy-two hours, and she was riding the thin edge of control. She had lost one man already. She was not going to lose another. "This is not going to happen, Doyle."
"It's not up to you," Doyle said, rising also. "It's been approved and your agent has already accepted the assignment."
Cam glanced quickly at Stark, who shook her head almost imperceptibly. Clearly, she knew nothing of Doyle's plan.
"This meeting is over," Cam snapped as she turned and walked out the door. Another second and she would have had her hands on his throat again.
Cam stalked through the command room, barking, "Grant! With me."
Ellen Grant jumped to her feet and hurried to follow her tall commander as she pushed through the door into the outer hallway. The elevator ride down to the lobby was chillingly silent. As they approached the double glass doors, Grant said quietly, "Commander, I-"
"In a minute, Grant," Cam said sharply, working hard to quell her desire to punch Patrick Doyle in the face. Ellen Grant was her agent -- hers to command, hers to protect. He had come between her and someone she was responsible for, and that was a serious miscalculation on his part. She could tolerate his personal affronts, but she would not tolerate anyone interfering with what was hers.
Grant set her jaw and prepared herself for an upbraiding. It would be hard to take coming from Roberts, because she respected her.
They crossed the street and Cam unlocked the ornate park gates, stepping through with Grant on her heels. Once they were inside, Cam slowed so that Grant could walk by her side. Cam looked at her and said, "Do you want to tell me what happened between you and SAC Doyle?"
Grant stared straight ahead, her tone subdued as she replied, "He contacted me this morning while you were on the phone with Washington. He told me he would need me for an undercover operation to apprehend Loverboy." She swallowed, recalling the strange conversation. "I told him he should speak with you, but he informed me the decision had already been made in Washington. He said that he needed my answer then."
She looked into Cam's face, her tone unapologetic. "I told him yes."
They had reached a secluded corner of the park, not far from where Cam had sat with Blair only days before. They stood under the shade of a weeping willow, Cam with her hands balled into fists in the pockets of her trousers, Grant unconsciously at attention.
"I'm not going to let you do this, Grant," Cam said quietly, although her voice vibrated with tension. "You're a Secret Service agent, not FBI. This is an undercover decoy operation, and you're not trained for it."
Grant straightened even further, a set look of determination on her face. "Commander, I respectfully disagree. I was a cop before I joined the Service. I can do this."
Cam smiled slightly, expecting nothing less from the spit and polish Grant. She was a solid agent in every respect, and Cam did not doubt her abilities. Nevertheless, she was not going to lose another agent, not in an operation that spelled disaster from the onset. There were too many people involved and not enough coordination. Janet had been a trained undercover detective, and she had died in an operation just like this. Cam wasn't going to lose anyone else.
"Agent Grant, I have never doubted your abilities. I value your contribution to this team, and I trust Egret to your care. This is something altogether different, and it's not going to happen."
Grant met Cam's eyes and she spoke her mind. "Commander, you may not have anything to say about this. I'm not certain that anyone can override SAC Doyle at this point. If I'm needed, and if I'm ordered, I'll do it. And do it willingly. Jeremy Finch is dead. You were almost killed." She hesitated for moment, and then said quietly, "The next time, Commander, he may be too angry to settle for a substitute. The next time it might be Egret. Commander, I want this assignment."
Cam looked past Grant's shoulder up to the penthouse of Blair's apartment building. They couldn't keep her up there forever. She doubted they could even keep her up there for a few days, nor did she really want to.
Blair was suffering - from the guilt of others dying in her place and from the conflict of being at once exposed to countless strangers - and confined by them. It was a conflict that was suffocating her and one that would eventually destroy her strength. Cam could not bear to see that. She brought her eyes back to Ellen Grant's steady blue ones.
"If it comes to that, Grant, I want you to know that I'll be right behind you. You're not going into this alone."
Grant smiled softly. "Thank you, Commander. That makes me feel better."
Finally, Cam smiled, too. "And Ellen - thank you."
When they turned and walked side by side from the park, the silence between them was one of unspoken communion.
Blair answered the door at the first knock. "Is Diane all right?" she inquired urgently as Cam stepped into the loft.
Cam nodded and went directly to the phone. She disconnected the jack and inserted a small rectangular box between the wall and Blair's phone. An LCD readout blinked on the face of the metal device, showing a series of rapidly cycling ten digit numbers. She depressed the receiver once to engage the scrambler, then handed the telephone to Blair. "Why don't you call her yourself? 212-555-1950."
Blair raised an eyebrow and pushed the numbers. A few seconds later she said, "I'd like to speak to Diane please..." She whispered a 'thank you' to Cam as she waited, then the first real smile in a long time lit her face. "Hey. How are you doing?"
Blair leaned against the breakfast counter that divided her kitchen from her work area and reached for Cam's hand as she spoke. "I don't think it's a good idea to try to seduce the FBI, Diane," she said dryly, a wry smile on her face. She tugged Cam closer, and Cam slipped behind her to sit on one of the high stools lined up along the center island in the kitchen.
Blair backed between Cam's legs, saying, "Yes, I know. They do seem to be criminally attractive, but I still think it might provoke an incident if you dragged one into the bedroom."
As she talked, she ran her fingers up and down Cam's arm. Cam shifted, spreading her legs so that she could pull Blair against her chest, slipping both arms loosely around Blair's waist from behind, cradling her softly in her arms. She rested her chin against the top of Blair's head. She sighed, too quietly for Blair to hear.
"I can't tell you very much. I don't know very much," Blair offered, placing her palm on the inside of Cam's thigh. Almost unconsciously, she trailed her fingers along the inside seam of Cam's trousers, listening to Diane tell her about the less than four star accommodations she was being subjected to. Hearing Diane's voice helped ease the ball of tension that had filled her chest all morning. But even in her relief, she was much more aware of the slight increase in Cam's breathing and the fine tension rippling through the muscles under her hand.
"She's here with me now... Yes, Diane," Blair said in mock exasperation. "I'm listening to her." She laughed, and added, "I said I was listening - I didn't necessarily say I was following orders. I don't believe domestication is an immediate threat."
As Blair spoke, Cam fingered open the top two buttons of her blouse and slipped her hand inside. Blair gave a slight start of surprise and automatically pressed her hips back into Cam's crotch.
"I'm sorry about this," Blair said quietly, trying valiantly to ignore the brush of Cam's hands over her nipples. "I trust Cam, and she'll get you out of there as soon as it's possible."
Blair reached behind her and found the button on Cam's fly. A second later she had it open and was tugging at the zipper. "I'll call again," she said, then listened briefly. "Yes. I'll be careful, I promise."
Before she said goodbye, her hand was inside Cam's trousers. She set down the phone and leaned her head back against Cam's shoulder -extending her neck, offering her flesh. Cam's lips were on her immediately, hot and hungry. Blair rubbed her fingers over Cam's briefs, smiling to herself as she found the heat she expected.
"Thank you for that," Blair said throatily, arching her back, pressing her breasts up into Cam's palms.
"What?" Cam asked dimly. She was focused on the way Blair's breasts filled her hands and the insistent pounding pressure between her legs building rapidly under Blair's fingertips.
"Letting me call her," Blair murmured, her eyes closed. She moved her hand back up to Cam's belly, aware of the faint growl of frustration from her lover. She smiled to herself, enjoying the power. She smoothed her palm over Cam's firm stomach and then pushed her hand under the waistband of her underwear, back down between her legs. She slipped a finger on either side of the firm prominence of Cam's clitoris, squeezing her slowly. Cam jerked against her, groaning softly.
Then Cam's lips were against her ear, her breath ragged, as she whispered, "Do that a little harder and you'll make me come."
"I intend to," Blair answered, a hungry edge to her voice. She moved her hand away and turned in Cam's arms until she faced her, still between her legs, her breasts exposed through her open blouse. She rubbed her hard nipples over Cam's shirt front, gasping softly at the fine ripple of excitement that ran straight down to her own clitoris.
"Put your fingers back on me," Cam pleaded, her eyes hazy with need.
"Not here. Not just yet," Blair whispered, stepping away. She caught Cam's uninjured hand in hers and pulled her upright. "I want you slow."
"I don't have much time," Cam protested hoarsely, following her nevertheless.
Blair glanced back, an enigmatic smile on her face. "You have enough time, Commander. The only advantage to our situation is that no one is going to question your presence up here."
Blair drew her around the corner of the partition into her sleeping alcove, then turned and reached for the buttons on Cam's shirt. "I've never made love with a woman in my own bed. Couldn't find one to pass the security inspection." She stopped long enough to kiss her, a deep languid kiss. She was having trouble keeping her hands from shaking she wanted her so badly, but she continued evenly, "Apparently, you're the one. Stand still."
Methodically, she opened each button as Cam submitted quietly to the slow torture, her hands clenched at her sides, shuddering with arousal. Blair stripped the shirt off and laid it carefully over a chair, mentioning almost as an afterthought, "It wouldn't do to get this too wrinkled."
When Blair began to pull off Cam's trousers, Cam's restraint wavered and she hurriedly pushed them off herself. In a minute she was naked. She reached for Blair, who stepped back quickly with a small shake of her head. Blair's eyes were laser bright and focused intently on Cam's body.
"No, you can't touch me," Blair said thickly. "I don't want to be distracted either."
Blair drew Cam to the bed and urged her down on top of the covers. Then, watching Cam watch her, she slowly removed her own clothing. As she slid the sheer silk off her shoulders, she drew her fingers down her breasts, lingering on her nipples, tugging them lightly until the exquisite sensation became too much to bear. As she continued down to stroke her abdomen, teasing ever lower towards the curls at the base of her belly, she kept her eyes on Cam's. Cam's eyes were dark and hot and her hands twitched where they lay on the covers. Cam's reaction heightened her arousal as much as her own caresses.
"I want to do that," Cam said urgently, watching as Blair's fingers slipped between her thighs. When Blair made a small whimpering sound, Cam was afraid that she might come herself. Hoarsely she gasped, "Blair, please."
Blair shuddered and pulled her hand away, knowing she was too close and not wanting it yet. Nevertheless, she needed contact, something to relieve the throbbing ache between her legs. Hurriedly, she moved onto the bed and straddled Cam's thigh, moaning softly as her swollen flash rubbed against Cam's warm skin. She leaned forward, bracing herself on one arm, and brought the other between Cam's thighs. She entered her smoothly, all in one motion, knowing that Cam was ready for her.
Cam's throat closed around a cry and she thrust her hips upward to meet Blair's thrust. The suddenness of it took her unaware, and a rolling wave of sensation followed fast upon the initial pleasure. Her eyes opened wide and she stared at Blair, stunned and already lost.
"Close," she gasped.
Blair was holding back her own orgasm with every ounce of her strength, but the feel of Cam contracting around her fingers and the tingling in her clitoris as she thrust herself along Cam's leg was too much for her to contain. She bore down, and as she felt herself begin to crest, she pressed her thumb hard along the length of Cam's clitoris.
Cam jolted off the bed with the first pounding spasm and wrapped her arms around Blair. They pressed their bodies together, groaning softly in unison as they joined in surrender.
As the contractions subsided, Blair curled up by Cam's side, her fingers still inside her. Cam's arm came lazily around her shoulder and they lay together, breathing hard and drifting somewhere just behind the boundaries of reality.
Eventually, Cam whispered, "If we keep this up, it's all going to come out."
Blair pressed closer, moving her hand upward across Cam's stomach. She rested her fingers on Cam's breast, not in passion now but in contented possession. "Yes, I know."
"It will be complicated."
Blair pressed her lips to Cam's shoulder, kissing her lightly. "Yes, I know."
"We'll deal with it, somehow," Cam sighed, her lips soft on Blair's temple.
Blair closed her eyes, stealing a brief moment of peace, as she whispered, "Yes, I believe we will."
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