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Valor on the Move
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He’d give his life to protect the president’s son. But he never expected to risk his heart.
Growing up gay in the White House hasn’t been easy for Rafael Castillo. Codenamed “Valor” by the Secret Service, Rafa feels anything but brave as he hides in the closet and tries to stay below the radar in his last year of college. His father’s presidency is almost over, and he just needs to stick to his carefully crafted plan. Once his family’s out of the spotlight, he can be honest with his conservative parents about his sexuality and his dream of being a chef.
It’s definitely not part of Rafa’s plan to get a new Secret Service agent who’s a walking wet dream, but he’s made it this long keeping his desires to himself. Besides, it’s not like Shane Kendrick would even look at him twice if it wasn’t his job.
Shane’s worked his way up through the Secret Service ranks, and while protecting the president’s shy, boring son isn’t his dream White House assignment, it’s an easy enough task since no one pays Rafa much attention. He discovers there’s a vibrant young man beneath the timid public shell, and while he knows Rafa has a crush on him, he assures himself it’s harmless. Shane’s never had room for romance in his life, and he’d certainly never cross that line with a protectee. Keeping Rafa safe at any cost is Shane’s mission.
But as Rafa gets under his skin, will they both put their hearts on the line?
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Someday when people ask what it was like growing up gay in the White House, Rafael Castillo will tell them it sucked donkey balls.
And not in a good way, for the record. (Not that Rafa had any desire to fellate a donkey, but he was keenly interested in going down on a guy before his own balls went so blue they shriveled up and fell off.)
“Babe, I’d better get to sleep. It’s, like, ass-o-clock in the morning over here.” Ashleigh yawned loudly. “Glad you made it home from the bullshit seminar okay.”
Home. Even after seven years, it was still weird to think of the White House that way. “Thanks. Have fun eating croissants and reading existential poetry by the Seine. Or whatever people do in Paris on their days off.” Rafa twisted his foot in his sheet idly, staring at the old Kelly Slater surfing poster he’d had up since they moved in. His mother had forbade thumbtacks and insisted on framing it in tasteful red wood on the pale cream wall.
Ashleigh laughed. “I’ve been telling you what people do in Paris for two hours, and I did not once mention pastry or angsty poetry. But it is all rather glamorous, I admit. Even as a lowly intern, it’s still Vogue. I got to take home a negligee from the closet. That is the legendary Vogue closet, by the way.”
“Oh la la.” He pitched his voice low. “Are you wearing it now?”
Her voice went husky. “Sure am. It’s lacy and black and almost completely see through.” She paused. “What are you wearing, lover?”
He laughed. “The usual.” With Ash, he could talk and have fun and not have to think about every word. He wished it were so easy with the rest of the world, but Ashleigh was really the only person who knew him. The real him.
“Hmm. Since you’re in your room where no one can see you, I’m guessing you’ve traded your usual slacks and button-down for boxers and a Yankees T-shirt with some variety of food stain on it.”
“Close. It’s an old UVA tee from freshman orientation. Stain is of the pizza variety.”
“Hot. And hey, tell your dad thanks again for pulling those strings, okay?”
“I will when he gets back from wherever.” Rafa glanced at the digital clock on his bedside table. Just past eleven, so perfect timing. Downstairs should be nice and quiet.
“When was the last time you talked to him?”
“I thought you wanted to go to sleep?”
Ashleigh huffed, and he could imagine the roll of her eyes. “Answer the question.”
“I dunno. A few weeks ago. He’s been busy. You know—the G7, the Chechnyan peace talks, backslapping with the NRA. Anyway, get to sleep. Glad you met a friend who loves Renaissance art as much as you do.”
“Yeah, me too. I think it’s going to be a fun summer. Love you, babe.”
“Love you too, Ash.”
He tapped off the phone and tossed it on the bed beside him, chuckling to himself. While Ashleigh appreciated Michelangelo as much as the next person, the staff who monitored his calls must have marveled over her passion for it. While he knew the Secret Service and White House staffers didn’t care about his personal life and were only interested in protecting the president and his family, Rafa still maintained the charade at all times. He and Ash had come up with the code not long after they’d started dating—or should he say “dating.” In their secret language, motorcycles filled in for hot guys. For example, if Rafa said, “I saw a gorgeous ride today—a Ducati with red trim,” that meant he’d spotted a sexy redhead he wanted to bang. Anyone who shared Ash’s interest in Renaissance art was a lesbian she wanted to hook up with.
At first it had been a fun game to talk in code, but now it was just normal. Most importantly, it was effective, since it had been three years and they hadn’t been outed. They’d played their roles as young lovers perfectly, and it had served them both well. Ashleigh hadn’t been ready to come out to her incredibly conservative parents, and Rafa couldn’t either. Not yet, anyway. Most of the world might have come a long way on the subject of gay rights, but the neoconservatives in the States had pushed back hard. A Republican president with a gay son living in the White House? It would have been a nightmare for his father, let alone for him. Rafa had about seven months to go in DC until the new president’s inauguration in January, and then he was free.
He wished Ash had been at the young leaders’ summer seminar his mother had forced him to suffer through after his exams. Sitting in lectures just wasn’t the same without his best friend. While the rest of the class in Intro to American Studies at UVA in freshman year had stared and whispered furtively, splitting their attention between Rafa and the Secret Service agents in khakis and polos at the back of the lecture hall (who were not blending in even a little), Ashleigh had plopped next to him and started complaining about the water pressure in her dorm. She’d also inquired as to whether his “goons” could kill her snoring roommate and make it look like an accident.