GENRE: Lesbian / Bisexual Historical Erotic Romance
LENGTH: 104,122 words
Portia Sebring was born into a family that’s considered royalty in the intelligence community, and the fact that she’s a woman doesn’t preclude her from joining the “family business.” A linguistic genius, she’s recruited by her older brother to decipher Russian codes for the Venona Project. While at Arlington Hall, she meets Nigel Mann, a CIA officer known as Mr. Freeze, who’s been vetted to the NSA. Unbeknownst to Portia, her father is behind the meeting. Rumor has it that Portia, called the ice princess, is also a lesbian, and at this time in America -- the late ’50s -- it could negate any veracity to the codes she deciphers. A match with an equally cold man who won’t distract her from her work seems the ideal solution in her father’s eyes.
Things don’t go quite according to plan, as both Portia and Nigel develop strong feelings for each other. They marry and eventually start a family. However, the lifetime together they anticipate is cut short when Nigel’s jet crashes on New Year’s Day, 1978. Devastated, but with a thirteen-year-old son depending on her, Portia has no choice but to go on after Nigel’s death.
When Quinton, her son, is approached to join the US Equestrian Team for the 1980 Summer Olympics, she’s pleased and proud, but those plans are dashed due to the government’s boycott of the Games. To distract him, Portia takes him to France on a wine-buying trip, and it’s there that Quinton first feels an attraction for someone of his own sex. Portia, a wise mother, is aware, but since she herself had a same-sex affair in her early twenties, she’s very accepting of this.
Along with Gregor, her trusted bodyguard and devoted family friend, she watches as Quinton follows in his father's and her footsteps in the "family business," and finally finds a partner worthy of him, WBIS agent Mark Vincent. She’s happy for them, but sure that she won’t love again, since Sebrings have their “one” and she's lost hers, but is she right?
Note: may contain sexually explicit scenes of a homoerotic nature.
“Mrs. Mann! You can’t go in there! He’s in a meeting!”
“Gregor, wait here, please.” I bypassed Director Holmes’s secretary and walked into his office. He was raising a cup of coffee to his lips, as was the man who was with him.
Director Holmes rose to his feet jerkily, and drops splattered over his tie. “Portia. You’re early! That’s to say ... It’s so nice to see you again.” He’d danced with me at the Bosnia-Herzegovina ball, and after making a heavy-handed pass which I’d shot down, he’d apologized and vanished in the crowd. When I spotted him again, he was at Wexler’s side. “Would you care for coffee? Or tea?”
“Nothing. Thank you.” There was no need for me to be rude.
“I wasn’t expecting you so soon.”
Because I hadn’t wanted him aware I was on my way.
I looked pointedly at the other man.
“How do you do, Mrs. Mann.” He got to his feet and straightened his tie, giving me what he no doubt considered a charming smile. “I’m Eric Jameson. I’m Director Holmes’s personal private executive administrative assistant.”
“Oh, yes. I ... uh ... I’m a great admirer of your late husband. He did some ... uh ... really interesting work. I’m especially intrigued by that escapade in Berlin in the early ’60s, when he crossed swords, so to speak, with the KGB. Did you know Sidorov actually intended to kidnap him?”
Of course I was aware of that, since I was the one who’d interfered with the kidnapping. Was Jameson deliberately trying to delay my talk with Edward Holmes, perhaps to give the DCI time to regroup?
“How could she know, Eric?” Holmes snapped. “She wasn’t there!”
Jameson scowled and gritted his teeth.
“Why don’t you return to your office and look further into that matter we were discussing? We’ll continue our conversation later.”
“Yes, sir. Mrs. Mann.”
I gave a curt nod and watched as he left.
“Your husband left some large shoes to fill.” Holmes gave a weak smile.
“Indeed. Now, suppose we get to the matter at hand?”
“I’m sorry to bring you out here under these circumstances.”
“What, exactly, are the circumstances?”
He cleared his throat and smoothed his hair. “A number of our younger officers are missing. We believe that a rogue antiterrorist organization called Prinzip is behind it. In a joint undertaking with the OIG, Quinton Mann went to Paris in search of them.”
“Might I ask how the OIG became involved in this?”
“One of General Kirkpatrick’s people is also missing, and the General asked Mann to find him.”
I didn’t like to throw my weight around, but, “Perhaps I need to have a word with RJ.”
The director wiped his brow. “Mann was supposed to be in touch with David Cooper, his contact here at Langley. Cooper has informed me that he hasn’t heard from him in twelve days.”
I sank down in the chair vacated by Eric Jameson. “I believe I’ll have that cup of tea now.”
“Yes, of course.” He thumbed his intercom. “April, tea for Mrs. Mann.”
Within seconds she hurried in. “It’s Earl Grey, just the way you like it!”
“Thank you, April.” I accepted the cup and took a sip, a little disturbed that my preferences appeared to be common knowledge at Counterintelligence Threat Analysis. But at this moment there were other, more important things that worried me. “You’re telling me that Quinton was abducted while on assignment in Paris.”
“I didn’t say that. We ... er ... we really don’t know what’s happened to him.”
“I see. But he’s been out of touch for twelve days. Suppose you tell me what the Company is doing to find my son.”
“The CIA isn’t the only organization that’s lost operatives. The French, the British, the Israelis. I’ve been told that even the WBIS has taken a hit.”
“I imagine that won’t bode well for whoever is doing this.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“I’ve heard that Trevor Wallace is very protective of his agents.” More so than the CIA, it appeared. “Whoever is doing this will pay dearly.”
“How have you heard that? What do you know of Trevor Wallace?”
“Really, Mr. Holmes. That’s neither here nor there. Now, this is very illuminating, but it doesn’t answer my question. What is the CIA --”
“Portia, you have to understand. This is a very delicate situation. An international incident could be started if we don’t tread cautiously.”
“So what you’re saying ...” Or more to the point, not saying. “... is that the CIA is going to do nothing.”
“Our hands are tied! The administration --”
I rose to my feet and put the cup carefully on his desk. The temptation to hurl its contents at the DCI’s head was almost too great. I walked out of his office.
“Gregor, we’re done here.”
He paced along beside me.
“Portia!” Holmes caught up with us near the Wall of Honor. “You’re being unreasonable!”
“Mrs. Mann.” I corrected once again. “I refuse to stand for this, Director. Nigel Mann is a star on this wall.” A janitor was dusting the stars, industriously running a cloth over each one as if his hope of heaven hung on how well he did his job, and I couldn’t help thinking the Company cared more for the stars than for the son of one of the men so honored. I curled my fingers into a fist but kept my tone cool. “I will not see my son there as well.”
“I’m very sorry, Portia ... Mrs. Mann.”
If he said I was acting like a woman, I would forget I was a lady and punch him.
He reached for my arm, shying back when Gregor stepped forward, making his presence known. “Oh ... er ...”
This was Novotny, the FBI agent, and he had his game face on.
Holmes scowled at him, attempting to stare him down? It was an idiotic move, and I would have smiled if the situation hadn’t been so dire.
Giving it up as a hopeless case, Holmes turned back to me. “At this point there’s nothing I can do --”
“My son is one of the best you have. If you will do nothing to find him, then I shall!”
“You can’t! It could be deadly! You don’t understand what’s involved, how things are done here! You’re a civilian! And a woman!”
He was spouting rubbish, and I had no desire to hear anything further. I turned on my heel and left him standing there.
Gregor strode out beside me. “Mrs. Mann --”
“Wait until we’re in the car.” Once the Town Car was back on the road, I said, “Let me have the car phone, please.”
“What’s going on, Portia? Holmes’s secretary looked terrified.”
“Quinton’s missing, and the CIA is sitting on its collective asses and doing nothing.”
“My thoughts precisely.” I dialed the number for Shadow Brook and put it on speaker. “Ludovic, it’s Portia. Is Jefferson there?”
A few seconds later my brother came on the line. “Portia, how are you?”
“I’ve been better, Jefferson. I need a favor.”
Although he had been retired from a desk job at the Company for almost ten years, he still kept in touch with former field officers. He listened intently as I repeated what DCI Holmes had told me.
“Holmes is an idiot. This wouldn’t have happened if Bryan hadn’t been put into the position of having to resign. Useless administration. All right, listen, I know of a good man, Benjamin Monroe. He was Black Ops before he came to the Company. He’s freelance now. I’ll see if he’s available. Where are you?”
“In the car. We’re on our way back to Great Falls. Gregor?” He rattled off the mile marker. “Did you hear that, Jefferson?”
“Got it. Okay, Gregor, don’t speed. Portia, I should have this firmed up by the time you get home. Monroe will find Quinn for you, I promise.”
“Jefferson ... if I lose my son ...” I drew in a breath, struggling to keep my hands from shaking. “I will cause such a scandal the CIA will never recover!”
“No, Portia. We’ll cause a scandal.”
“That’s what family is for.”