“Let me go around and get the door,” Renee said as the Suburban pulled to a stop on the circular drive in front of the sweeping wood and glass house on the edge of the ocean. “Use your cane, all right?”
“I’ve got it right here,” Paula replied, waiting dutifully while Renee jumped out and sprinted around the vehicle to open her door. She really didn’t need the help any longer, but Renee needed to do it. She’d felt the same way when Renee had been shot, helpless and scared. So she didn’t protest when Renee leaned in to take her arm and guide her onto the flagstone walkway leading up to Tanner and Adrienne’s home on Whitley Island.
“Just let me know if you start feeling tired,” Renee said, “and we’ll go someplace and sit for a while.”
“Right. I will.”
Renee hooked her arm through Paula’s as they made their way past terraced gardens that were covered now with snow and the empty fountains that in summer filled the air with cascading rainbows. “I’m hovering, aren’t I?”
“Nope.” Paula nodded to the agents who flanked the staircase leading up to the wide veranda, checking IDs and guest lists. She blushed when several casually saluted her. The notoriety that came with having been shot in the line of duty was embarrassing, especially when she hadn’t even been able to neutralize the threat to her protectee. She certainly did not feel heroic.
“You did your job, sweetie,” Renee murmured. “You made everyone proud.”
“It’s scary the way you can read my mind.”
Renee kissed her cheek. “It’s only because I love you.”
“That’s good.” Paula laughed and hooked an arm around Renee’s waist. “Because I’d hate to think that anybody else would know what I was thinking—especially when you look so spectacular in that dress.”
“Is that a line?”
Paula waited while the agent at the door held it open for them, and once they were inside the great room, which was already alive with activity and the buzz of conversation, answered, “Absolutely. The doctor said no restrictions except heavy lifting. And you’re not heavy.”
Renee laughed and waved to Emory and Dana. “You’ve got two weeks until you start serious rehab. In the meantime, I guess we can work a little on your flexibility.”
“Sounds like just the therapy I need.”
“It’s hard to believe it’s only been a month since that nightmare,” Emory said when Paula and Renee moved off to speak to the hostesses. Her gaze swept over Dana, her lids slowly lowering as her lips curved playfully. “Although I am aware it’s been almost a month since the last time I saw you. Painfully aware.”
“Longest month of my life,” Dana muttered, concentrating on the feel of Emory’s hand in hers. They hadn’t touched in twenty-eight days. Twenty-eight endless days and restless nights. She wished they were anywhere else right now, doing anything other than waiting for the first daughter to get married. She was still officially on this story, although she didn’t seem to be able to pay attention to anyone but Emory. God, but Emory smelled so good, and her dress—a shade of blue the exact color of the Mediterranean Sea—accentuated all her curves and revealed just enough skin as it dipped low over her chest and back to make Dana’s palms tingle. “It’s so damn good to see you. I’ve been living on the sound of your voice over the phone, and as fun as that is sometimes, it’s not enough. I’m dying to touch you.”
“I’m sorry I couldn’t get away sooner. Knowing that you arrived last night to interview Blair and I couldn’t get here until this morning has been driving me crazy.” Emory leaned closer and whispered, “I want to kiss you. Actually, I want to get you out of that very elegant suit and make love to you for a week.”
“Only a week?”
“That’s round one.”
Dana wondered how she was going to manage civil conversation for the next five hours while she was completely aroused. “I’m due some time off. I never collected on my leave after I got back from overseas the last time. Clive has had me chained to my desk.”
“Your reports on terrorism and what it means for us, all of us, have been amazing. I’m glad the White House didn’t demand a blackout on all of it.” Emory scanned the crowd waiting for the signal to move into the solarium where the ceremony would be held, noting the large number of security guards. “You handled what happened to Blair very sensitively.”
“Even if I didn’t know her personally, I wouldn’t have reported the details of what happened out there anyhow.” Dana shrugged. “I don’t have to give some other bunch of crazies any ideas in order to report what really matters. While Lucinda Washburn and my editor were fussing at each other over First Amendment rights versus national security, I just wrote my story and let them worry about the spin.”
“I loved reading your articles. It made me feel closer to you.”
“Can you get away?” Dana asked, knowing she sounded desperate. “I really need—”
“Yes. That’s why I’ve been so busy. We had funding reports due, and I needed to get my senior people started on an important leg of our current project. Now I can take a break.” Emory squeezed Dana’s hand. “I need time with you too. Will you…will you be going back overseas?”
“I don’t know. It depends on how long that dustup over there lasts. Maybe.” Dana knew it wasn’t easy for people in her line of work to maintain a relationship, and she wanted to so badly. “I know it’s soon and I know my lifestyle isn’t ideal, but—”
“It’s not too soon. And I understand about your job.” Emory kissed her cheek. “I’m not always available either. But you matter—we matter—we’ll find a way to make it work.”
Dana kissed her, a soft kiss of promise. “We will.”
“I’m surprised you’re still doing this part of the story,” Emory said, gesturing to the crowd.
“If it had been anyone else’s wedding, I would’ve found a way to get out of it. But I wanted to see you, and I wanted to be here for Blair and Cam, and”—she gestured toward the door as the president of the United States walked in with Lucinda Washburn on his arm—“this is the story of the hour.”
“Nervous?” Diane zipped up the back of Blair’s cream Armani dress and rested both hands on Blair’s shoulders, studying her in the mirror in front of them. The squared bodice highlighted Blair’s smooth, strong shoulders and the subtle ruching accentuated the flowing lines of her body. “This dress is fabulous. You’re a knockout.”
Blair tipped her head back against Diane’s shoulder and sighed. “I’m not really nervous. Excited, mostly.”
“Tanner has done a great job keeping the press from bugging us this week, and having Dana stay on as the official reporter has really helped.”
“It’s the first time I’ve ever been happy to have a reporter in my pocket,” Blair said with a laugh. “Is everything okay with you? I haven’t seen much of Valerie this week.”
“She’s here, but she’s keeping a low profile, mostly to keep me happy. I know Cam said that with her handler gone and Matheson dead, there’s probably no one in the agency interested in her any longer, but I still don’t want her picture in the newspapers.”
Blair slid in the diamond drop earrings that Cam had given her as an early birthday present. “You’re getting pretty good at the secret agent stuff.”
Diane laughed and shook her head. “I know. Whoever would have thought.”
“But you’re okay?” Blair turned and took Diane’s hands. “You’re happy?”
“More than I ever imagined.” Diane gave Blair’s hands a shake. “Especially since Cam got to you before I could convince you what a great catch I am.”
Blair kissed her cheek, then hugged her. “I love you.”
“Hair! Makeup!” Diane exclaimed in horror, but she hugged Blair back. “I love you too.”
A knock sounded on the door followed by a male voice inquiring, “Blair?”
Diane stepped away. “That’s my cue to go find my lover. I’ll see you downstairs.”
“Don’t get lost. I’m not doing this without you right next to me.”
“That’s where I’ll be, anytime you need me.”
Blair called, “Come in.”
The door opened and the president stepped inside. “Hi, Diane.”
“Mr. President, great to see you.” Diane slipped past him and disappeared outside.
“Hi, Daddy,” Blair said.
“Hi, honey. All set?”
She took his hand. “Yes.”
“Let me do that,” Marcea said, fastening the small emblem of the seal of the United States that the president had presented to Cam for meritorious service to the lapel of her charcoal gray morning coat. Then she smoothed her hands over Cam’s shoulders and down her sleeves. “You look very dashing.”
“No one will be looking at me,” Cam said. At least she hoped that was the case.
“You’re every bit as beautiful as Blair.”
Cam laughed. “Spoken like a mother.”
“Which I am,” Marcea said affectionately. “This is a very brave thing you are doing. I’m very proud of you.”
“Loving Blair is the smartest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Cam said. “Convincing her to have me was the hard part. Everything after that is easy.”
“I know that what happened in Colorado could happen again. But we can’t live in fear, can we.” Marcea kissed Cam’s cheek. “Let your friends help you both take care of each other.”
“I will.” Cam held out her arm to her mother. “If I can be half as wise and brave as you, we’ll be fine.”
“Then I won’t worry about you at all. Ready?”
Blair stepped into the hall with her father just as Cam and Marcea came out of the room opposite.
“Sir.” Cam nodded to the president.
“Hello, darling,” Blair said softly.
“Hi, baby,” Cam murmured, stepping close as the president and her mother turned away to say hello.
“Any second thoughts?” Blair asked.
“Not a one.” Cam wanted to kiss her, but she held back. “You look beautiful.”
“So do you.” Blair was surprised to hear her voice shaking. “Just to be clear, I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”
“I’m yours, forever. Count on it.”
“I do too.”
Blair joined her father. “I’ll see you downstairs, then, and we can say it again for the whole world to hear.”
“Anything you say, Ms. Powell,” Cam called after her as Blair’s laughter filled her heart.