It’s the biggest night of President Nick Cappuano’s life. Will his first lady make it to the Capitol in time for his speech?
President Cappuano has been working for months on his first State of the Union address, his highest profile moment yet as the country’s new president. He’s dealing with a wide array of complex issues and is counting down to the televised speech before a joint session of Congress. While he tries to strike the right tone to assure the American people that their new president is hard at work on their behalf, his wife, Metro Police Lt. Sam Holland is faced with one of the most confounding cases of her career and juggling some complex issues at home with the couple’s children. Add to that some vexing security concerns, and the first couple are on edge as they wonder whether they’ll pass this first big test for the fledgling Cappuano administration.
As always, when things get too hot to handle in the rest of their lives, Sam and Nick turn to each other for solace as their bond grows deeper by the day in this latest installment in the First Family Series!
More print and audio links coming soon!
State of the Union
First Family Series, Book 3
The White House bomb shelter reminded Sam of the one they’d been in the previous summer—and not in a good way. It had all the comforts of “home,” except you could never forget for a second that you were enclosed inside a box that could withstand a nuclear blast, buried deep under the most fortified house in the world.
Merry freaking Christmas.
In consultation with the Secret Service, Nick had decided not to disrupt the guests sleeping in every bedroom in the residence with the news that a bomb had been discovered outside the main gates. It was quickly disarmed, but the Secret Service wanted the first family in lockdown until they thoroughly searched the rest of the grounds. They’d brought only their kids and Skippy the dog. After being awakened from a sound sleep, Aubrey and Alden were in tears wondering how Santa would find them in this strange place.
“He’ll find you,” Nick assured them. “In fact, I heard he stops at the president’s house first.”
“Is that true, Lijah?” Alden asked their older brother.
“If Nick says it’s true, it must be. He’s the president after all.”
Sam smiled, thinking of what the media would say about that. Some reporters were predisposed to doubt every word that came out of Nick’s mouth—and hers, for that matter. “The best thing you guys can do is go back to sleep,” she said. “Little boys and girls have to be asleep before Santa can come.”
“I’ll lie down with you guys.” Elijah led his younger siblings into one of three rooms off the main area that included a mini Situation Room and a bank of official-looking phones. From the doorway, Elijah said, “Wake us up if we’re allowed to go back upstairs.”
“Will do,” Nick said.
“So did Santa already come?” Scotty, their fourteen-year-old son, asked.
“I’ll never tell,” Sam said.
“Oh, come on. I’m not a baby anymore. I know it’s you guys.”
Sam gasped. “Shut your filthy mouth. That’s not true!”
“Mom… Be serious.”
“I’m not talking to you about Santa. He’s real, and he’s magic, and that’s all I’m going to say about it.”
“Dad, will you talk to her?”
“You know as well as I do that talking to her when she’s like this is pointless.”
“I can hear you guys,” Sam said.
“Who do you think is trying to bomb us?” Scotty asked, his dark brows furrowing in a serious expression.
“Could be anyone,” Nick said with a nonchalant shrug designed to assuage Scotty’s concerns. “Could be someone who didn’t like my speech about reasonable gun control after the shooting in Des Moines, or it could be someone who doesn’t like that I was never elected as VP and thus shouldn’t be president.”
“Or it could be the family member of someone I’ve locked up,” Sam said to let Nick off the hook. “It could be Detective Ramsey, who finally succeeded in getting himself fired after he broke into my office and trashed it. Or it could be former Lieutenant Stahl’s brother or uncle who’s pissed that he’s doing a life sentence for trying to kill me twice, as if that was my fault.” Sam mirrored Nick’s shrug. “Like Dad said, it could be anyone.”
“You guys have a lot of enemies,” Scotty said bluntly.
“I suppose we do, even though we’d rather we didn’t have any,” Nick said.
“It’s the nature of both your jobs,” Scotty said. “Haters are gonna hate, but I think most of them would like to be you.”
“Everyone thinks it’s so cool to be president until they’re president and find out it’s actually super stressful,” Nick said.
“It’s also pretty cool,” Scotty said. “I mean, you’re the only person in the world that the Navy Band plays ‘Hail to the Chief’ for, and you get your own armored car, helicopter and airplane, as well as this sick house that comes with a bakery, twenty-four-hour pizza, Coke on demand and a pool, bowling alley and theater. It’s not all sucky.”
Nick chuckled at Scotty’s recitation of the benefits. “No, it certainly isn’t, and I’m not complaining. I don’t want you to think I am.”
“Nah, I get it. When some country halfway around the world does something crazy, that’s your problem. I can see how that gets old.”
“Not to mention when someone does something right here in the US, that’s my problem, or when a hurricane or tornado wipes out whole towns or a blizzard takes down the power grid of a major city. All that is my problem.”
“That’s a lot of problems for one person to manage.”
“But, hey, there’s twenty-four-hour pizza and Coke on demand.”
Scotty laughed. “Touché.” To Sam, he said, “Does he win every argument now that he’s president, or does it just seem that way?”
“He’s been on a winning streak lately. We’ll have to work on that while we’re on vacation.”
“You guys must be so happy to be on vacation,” Scotty said. “Even happier than I am to have no algebra for twelve whole days.”
“Never been happier,” Sam said. “The last month has been a bit chaotic.”
“You mean the part about Nelson dying, Dad suddenly becoming president, us having to move to the White House, getting a dog, several murders, a school shooting and a standoff in Iran?”
“Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?” Nick asked in a teasing tone.
“What the heck does that mean?” Scotty asked, seeming confused.
“That’s an awful reference to the assassination of President Lincoln while they were at Ford’s Theatre,” Nick said.
“Oh jeez. That’s in very poor taste, and I declare assassination to be a swear word while Dad is the president.”
“All in favor say ‘aye,’” Sam said.
“Aye,” they all said.
“And it passes unanimously,” Sam declared.
“We don’t like that word,” Scotty said in all seriousness. “In fact, it’s become my least favorite word in the English language.”
“We hate that word,” Sam said.
“I don’t want you guys worrying about stuff like that,” Nick said.
“What?” Sam said. “Us worry?”
“I’m surrounded by the finest security in the entire world. Nothing is going to happen to me.”
“Dad, you’re the president and everything, so I hate to say don’t be naïve, but really… Don’t be naïve. Of course it can happen to you. People hate you simply because of the office you hold and that you belong to a party they don’t align with, or you do things like say we need reasonable gun control when everyone knows we need reasonable gun control.”
Sam felt sick just thinking about the many things that could happen to Nick or the many people who hated him for the reasons Scotty noted as well as plenty of others.
“I think we need to limit his time online,” Nick said, affecting a lighthearted tone when the subject was anything but.
“At what point will he officially be smarter than us?” Sam asked.
“Uh, duh, I went past you a year ago.”
Even though she was still in the red evening gown that had made her feel so sexy earlier, she tackled her son and took him right down onto the rug, the way she would a perp on the job. Holding his arms behind him, she said, “You’re not so smart that you saw that coming.”
Scotty was laughing so hard, he couldn’t breathe.
Sam much preferred that to his serious concerns about Nick being murdered.
“I don’t know. That’s what you’re supposed to say when you find yourself in a pickle like you’re currently in.”
“I’d think a feminist like you would request the word ‘aunt.’”
Nick snorted with laughter. “He’s got you there, babe.”
“Maybe so, but who’s the one flat on his face, pinned to the carpet by his mommy?”
“Only because I don’t want to hurt you.”
“Oh please. Show me what you’ve got, tough guy.”
“Dad says we should never be rough with a woman or a girl. It’s not gentlemanly.”
“What are Dad’s rules for when a woman is beating the crap out of you?”
“Even then,” Scotty said.
Sam let him go. “Well, you guys are no fun at all.”
“We disagree,” Nick said with a meaningful look for her.
“Ew, don’t make it gross.” Scotty stood and dusted off his pajama pants. “Just so you know, I could’ve gotten you off me if I’d wanted to.”
“Is there a gym at Camp David, Dad?”
“I think so.”
“Then I challenge you to a wrestling match when we get there, Mom. I think Dad would agree that an official challenge is different from being rough with a woman in the way that he means.”
“I agree,” Nick said, “and I’ll serve as the referee.”
“Only if you don’t give her extra points because she’s your main squeeze.”
“Hmm, I can see how that’d be a concern for you. Your mom is a heck of a main squeeze.”
“I’m out.” Scotty held up his hands in surrender. “And I demand impartial officiating for the wrestling match. I’ll ask Elijah.”
“That’s probably a good idea,” Nick said.
“It’s concerning that you wouldn’t pick your kid over your wife like any other father would. You need to think about your priorities, Mr. President.”
“I love you equally,” Nick said.
“That is a damned lie. Everyone in the world knows you love her more than anything.”
“Scotty, come on. I love you just as much.”
“No, you don’t, but that’s okay. You love me more than enough. Merry Christmas and good night. Wake me up when they let us out of here.”
“Why would he say that?” Nick seemed genuinely distressed. “He knows I love him more than anything.”
“The whole world knows we love each other more than anything, but that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t take a bullet for any of those kids, or think of them first in a fire, or do anything we could to keep them safe.” She curled up on his lap and put her arms around him. “Focus on the other thing he said. You love him more than enough.”
“It’s kind of upsetting that he thinks I wouldn’t pick him and the others first, right along with you.”
“He knows you would. He’s just pushing buttons. That boy knows who loves him.”
“Yeah, I guess. I love him so much. I can’t imagine life without him anymore. It’s like he’s always been here, part of us.”
“I know, and I hate that he’s already fourteen, that we missed most of the first twelve years with him.”
“I do, too, but that doesn’t mean we don’t love him with everything we’ve got to give.”
“He’d never want you to be upset by something he intended to be good-natured teasing, Nick.”
“It was nothing more than another jab at how disgusting we are,” Sam said.
“We are pretty gross.”
“Super gross, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
He brought her in for a kiss that quickly turned into tongues and the rampant desire that was ever present between them—so much so that anyone who knew them could see it. Unfortunately, the whole world knew them now, and their smoking-hot love affair was the source of late-night jokes.
“In case I forget to tell you later, you taking him down wearing an evening gown was super sexy.”
“Oh yeah.” He cupped her ass and gave it a squeeze through the red silk, feeling around like he was looking for something. “No panties?”
“No panty lines. They’re there.”
His brows lifted. “Oh, the in-between kind? I like that kind.”
“Hands off, Mr. President. Don’t start something the Secret Service could interrupt at any second.”
“Ugh, why do people have to leave bombs for us when my wife is looking extra sexy and wearing a thong? Don’t they know it’s Christmas?”
“Maybe they did it because it’s Christmas.”
“I hope they figure out who it was sooner rather than later so we don’t have to be worried about that all week.”
“Yeah, me, too.”
An hour later, Sam was dozing with her head on Nick’s shoulder when a knock on the door roused her.
“Come in,” Nick said.
John Brantley Jr., Nick’s lead Secret Service agent, stepped into the room. “We’re all clear, Mr. President, Mrs. Cappuano.”
Sam got up from Nick’s lap and stretched out the kinks before going to wake Scotty and Elijah. Eli carried Alden, and Nick took Aubrey as they trooped up the stairs to the residence. They’d lived there for only a month, so Sam didn’t expect it to feel like home yet, but she had a strange feeling of homecoming after having been detained in the bunker. Anything looked good to her after that.
They got the kids settled in bed and said good night to Scotty and Eli.
“Wake me up when Alden and Aubrey are up,” Scotty said. “I don’t want to miss a second of our first Christmas with them.”
“Will do,” Sam said, kissing his cheek. “Merry Christmas.”
“Same to you.”
After Scotty closed his bedroom door, Sam and Nick turned to Brant.
“What do you know?” Sam asked.
“Nothing yet. The device has been disarmed and taken to the lab for further analysis. We should know more in the morning.”
“So it was an active explosive device?” Sam asked.
“Thank you, Brant,” Nick said. “We’ll see you in the morning, or I guess I should say later this morning.”
“Yes, sir. Merry Christmas to you both.”
“You, too. Go home while you can.”
Nick guided Sam into their suite and closed the door.
She went right to the bedside table where she’d left her cell phone charging earlier and put through a call to the Metro PD headquarters. “Explosives,” she said when the dispatcher answered.
“Hey, it’s Holland. What’re you hearing about the bomb outside my house?”
“You mean the one outside the White House that got me called in on Christmas Eve?”
“Yes,” she said, exasperated by his need to state the obvious.
“I heard it was sophisticated and could’ve done some major damage if it had detonated.”
That wasn’t what she’d wanted to hear. “Who’s got it?”
“The FBI, but my team and I were on the scene earlier when it was being defused. I don’t know much else, but I’ll let you know if I hear anything from them.”
“Hope you have a merry Christmas despite all this.”
“We will. You, too. Thanks for the info.”
“You got it.”
Sam slapped the phone closed and thought about what Higgins had told her. A sophisticated bomb that could’ve done some major damage had been left outside the gates to their home, the most protected place on earth.
“How did someone get close enough to the White House to leave a sophisticated bomb at our gate?” Sam asked.
“Am I expected to have an answer to that question?” Nick replied, ducking his head out of the walk-in closet where he’d stripped down to his underwear.
“I’d like an answer to that question from someone,” Sam said. “It’s bad enough we have to worry about someone harming us every time we step foot outside the gates. We ought to feel relatively safe inside the gates with all the security we have.”
Nick sat next to her on the bed and put his arm around her. “Even the best security isn’t foolproof.”
“That’s not a good answer.”
“How about we try to put these worries aside for now so we can get some sleep? Eli warned me the kids will be up crazy early.”
“Sure,” she said, knowing he was right. They needed to sleep while they could, or they’d be wrecks tomorrow with a houseful of guests. But she wouldn’t stop worrying until she knew who’d left the unwelcome package at their gate.