Lori Foster’s A Perfect Storm extends her bestselling romantic suspense series about covert operatives and the women they love.

Why did you focus on human trafficking in your Men Who Walk the Edge of Honor series?

We tend to think of human trafficking as a foreign issue, not something that could happen here, in our own back yards. But it’s a fast-growing problem in the United States, in every area, with no real defined demographic. I’d known that for a while, but until I started more in-depth research, I hadn’t realized how much it’s infiltrated our culture. Young girls being sold at truck stops, empty houses used to hold the “product,” hotels, restaurants, nail salons... so many ordinary places have been busted for forced labor and trafficking. The more awareness I can raise, the better the odds of helping someone.

How did you research the cultures of mercenaries and of human traffickers?

I used the Internet and a few books, and I watched some documentaries. Given the growing problem of trafficking, I constantly found specials on the news. The saddest part for me was reading the stories from survivors—women who’d gotten free from traffickers. There was one particularly heart-wrenching story from a mother, talking about what her daughter had gone through. Personal accounts really drove home the emotions involved.

How are the protagonists of A Perfect Storm different from previous characters in the series?

Arizona Storm is a unique character, molded by her background. Unlike most of the women I write about who had been kidnapped, she wasn’t only taken and held for a time before being rescued: she was trafficked, so her worst fears were a reality. Spencer Lark is a widower rather than a bachelor. It was important for the story that he’d been married, because then he knew real love when he found it.

Why did you include Chris, a gay man, in the household of a straight mercenary?

Why not? I despise stereotypes. A gay man can be a macho athlete, or he can be an interior designer, or any career in between. I also wanted to show that men can love other men and not be gay. That was the big thing for me with Chris and Dare. Dare loves Chris like a brother, a best friend, and Chris is a very important part of his life. They’re not in a romantic relationship, and neither man is concerned with the other’s sexuality.

What values did you instill in your private mercenaries?

The men I write can be intense, quiet, outspoken and outrageous, deadly or fun... but I would never waste time on a hero who wasn’t honorable, who didn’t protect those who couldn’t protect themselves, who didn’t value children and pets, who wasn’t independent and unselfish. Actually, that also goes for heroines. If they don’t possess those qualities, they won’t get a book. They might appear in a book as a secondary character, but they won’t lead, because they aren’t leaders.