Not My Lover Ch. 09byJazzMatthews©
Gage and Summer didn't stay much longer in San Antonio. They went to Orlando Stanton's home for dinner, drank to Gage and Summer's marriage, and toasted Angel and Orlando's upcoming one. No one else questioned Gage about his hastiness to leave the last time, especially Summer, witnessing the dark and restrained look he gave her whenever she dared to approach the subject.
They deviated from their drive to Houston to allow Summer some time to visit her family in East Texas, mainly her grandmother and Uncle Zero. Gage was welcomed completely into the family, even though Mina Sheppard knew that their bond was solely for the assignment. However, in her eyes, Gage could tell that she wanted so much more and that she knew something that he and Summer were simply oblivious to.
They had planned to stay the night before heading back to Houston in the morning, since driving from San Antonio on five hours of good road was exhausting.
A couple of hours before twilight, Mina urged Summer to go see her parents. Gage at once caught the look of despair upon Summer's face as she came over to him to ask for the keys to the car.
Like hell he was going to let her go alone. Although she carried her gun like a lifeline, Gage didn't feel comfortable letting her out of his sight.
After a few disgruntled words passed between them, Gage still wasn't backing down and told her that he'd be damned if she went by herself, even if she took off in the car and he followed her on foot.
Gage realized that the peaceful cemetery was only a few miles up the road from Mina's country home. He followed Summer until she stood over a large tombstone that had two names engraved in its surface. William and Florence Eddington had been parted by death from their daughter for almost two decades. That was over half as long as when his parents left him and his brothers, but by their own choice. Summer's parents, from what he knew of them, didn't have such an option.
Gage stared wordlessly at their daughter as she somberly cast her eyes at the slab of black marble that was the only connection between Summer and her parents buried far beneath the earth. Observing her Gage realized that even though Summer had grown adjusted to the sting of her loss, she was undoubtedly still hurting.
Her precious dark eyes shone with unshed tears that refused to fall. It stabbed him to pieces to see Summer, this strong woman of will and determination, on the verge of crying for the graduations her parents never got to attend. Or share her excitement of getting her driver's license and car. Or to know that their daughter was happy with a man who loved her.
Gage couldn't help her with that, not that he didn't care. He was concerned enough to feel her pain, empathy of losing love ones, except her parents loved her where his did not.
Warily and affectionately, Gage placed his hand on her shoulder, giving it a warm squeeze. Summer jumped, as if she'd forgotten he was there. Death had a way to control minds, even those of the living, to make them go dead with grief.
Gage stood closer, loaning her his warmth and support. "You all right, darlin'?"
It took her a while to answer. Gage didn't want her to rush into giving him one. Her eyes were still looking dismally at the grave, as if she was expecting it to move.
"It still hurts to talk about it," she disclosed in a quiet voice. "It's been almost eighteen years, yet I still can't believe they're dead. It was so sudden, and for a child, it's hard to swallow the fact that your parents are gone before they can see all that you can do with your life. They had such plans for me. My father wanted me to become a doctor. My mother told me I can be whatever I wanted to be, but within reason. However, I fear I was too much of a tomboy and she would've thrown a fit if she could see my job now."
She sniffled and Gage was instantly alert and gently hugged her to his chest. She tried fighting with him, but his arms remained constant. "Don't," she begged breathlessly. "I'm tired of being comforted."
"But you're still hurtin', honey," Gage debated. "It ain't gonna go away if you let it sit in your belly like a tummy ache. You gotta let it out."
She finally forced herself out of his arms, her eyes sharp as angry and sorrowful tears raced down her face in rapid streams. "Don't you think I haven't tried?" she shouted. "I've been talking about their death for years and I've been pouring myself out constantly, yet traces of it remains! Losing both of your parents at the same time is something you can never get over."
"I know the feelin'."
"But you don't realize the impact! You cannot fully comprehend where I'm coming from since your parents abandoned you when you were too small to understand and there's a chance that they live! I knew my parents for ten years before they were taken from me and I know for certain they're gone for good! There's the proof!" And she pointed to the grave that bore her parents' names.
More tears coursed down and Summer's face suddenly went ashen as she realized what she had said to him. Gage himself was truly hurt that she had the nerve to scream such things at him, as if him being barely old enough to remember a sliver of his parents wasn't a good enough reason to grieve. But he's grieved silently for the past thirty years over the loss of what could've been if only his parents would have loved Grant, Graham and himself enough to make them a family. All three of them lost on that.
Summer's tearful gaze caught his, Gage's eyes darkening to olive slits that almost shaded his injured feelings, but failed miserably in doing so. Then she suddenly walked off. Gage's glare followed her until she got into the driver's side of the car and sat there.
It took a while for Gage to move himself and he made his way to the car. He knew very well she couldn't take off without hotwiring the car since he had the keys. For some reason, since their drive to the airport in Washington D.C., Gage refused to allow her to drive, but the woman had a death grip on the steering wheel, staring straight ahead as if she had gotten into a accident and was paralyzed with fear from the result. He would hand over the keys just this once if that would erase the anxiety.
Gage approached the passenger side of the car and got in, the slam of the door admitting silence upon them. Gage examined Summer as she continued to stare straight ahead, but she remained that way for a little while longer. Soon her shoulders relaxed and she closed her eyes briefly. "I'm sorry," she apologized. "I had no right to say that."
Gage adjusted the seat into a more comfortable position and had the sun visor to block out the waning rays of sunlight. "You were lettin' out your emotions," he said carefully. "Ain't nothin' wrong with that."
"But I added insult to injury, as if you've hadn't had a reason to mourn. I guess I'm still trying to pick up the pieces of my life when it shattered the moment I was told."
She left it right there, but Gage urged her with silence to tell him of the afternoon that changed her small life forever. "I was ten years old. It was to be a great day. It was the day school was going to be let out for the Christmas holidays. My parents dropped me off that morning. They told me that they were going Christmas shopping and would be back that evening. Daddy had given me his warm smile and told me that he'll always love me and wanted me to behave. Mom kissed me and sent me on my way to class.
"It was about two that afternoon when a note was sent from the office to my class that told me that my grandmother had come to pick me up. I thought it was a surprise that Mema was coming to check me out of class early. I packed my things and went down to the office and I saw Mema standing there with a police officer. Her eyes were red as if she had been crying for days and a disturbing feeling in my gut. She got down on her knees and hugged me while she cried on my shoulder. I glanced up at the police officer and he had this forlorn look on his face as he pitied us. Then I was told the reason why."
Her brow twitched as the memory assailed her mind, reliving the scene. "My parents were struck by a diesel truck who couldn't stop at a red light and plowed into the side of their car. He was going sixty-five, even as he was slamming on his breaks, but he couldn't stop it. The impact was brutal and it killed them both instantly."
She studied the steering wheel's detail. "A part of me died with them. I can remember vividly standing in the office, not being able to cry, but I was traumatized and numb to all my senses. I couldn't believe it and I still couldn't until I witnessed their caskets being lowered into those plots over there. That's when reality set in. My parents weren't coming back."
Summer's eyes transferred to his as more tears descended. "So while everyone was enjoying their Christmas break, I spent mine burying my parents. It was hard celebrating Christmas during their absence. It still pains me to this day."
She heaved a painful sigh from her chest as she wiped away the droplets that managed to flow free again. Gage was totally moved by the story, knowing how bad it was to have a holiday ruined by death. Though he was around three, he remembered the last time he had seen his parents.
"I understand your emotions, sugar," he guaranteed. "Maybe not as deeply, but my pain is almost relative to yours."
Gage took a moment to pause, debating whether or not to tell the agonizing experience dealing with his mother and father, but he figured this was something she needed to hear to allow her to know that they were alike where parents were concerned.
"My parents left on an important day of my life," he began suddenly. "It was the day I was turnin' three and we were at my grandparents' place down in Georgia. I had heard shoutin' between my parents and grandparents, but before long, my parents came out, fakin' a pleasant smile to me as I had my birthday hat on and new clothes. I remember they began to hug and kiss each one of us, startin' with Graham, who was about two months at the time. Then they went to Grant, who was even antisocial then at just eighteen months. Finally, they held and kissed me for a long time and promised me that they had to go get my birthday present and would be back soon. Who woulda figured that their gift to me was to never return?"
Gage released a wounded chuckle. "Damn the both of them to hell," he swore darkly. "My granny told me once that they had considered taking Graham with them since he was but a baby, but my grandparents fought that decision tooth and nail. The lifestyle my parents wanted wasn't fittin' enough to raise a baby. Because of their choices, the day they left was the day my granddaddy disowned my daddy. They haven't contacted us since, like I'd care for them to."
Gage's eyes were tracing the dashboard as Summer regarded him quietly. He was waiting for her reaction, a movement or her voice wrapping around him. Gage was drawn as tight as a bow to hear some soft assurance from her.
Summer leaned toward him to place her hand on his shoulder, this time lending him the support. "Your grandmother didn't disclose this information to me, not in depth, but I'm glad that you told me yourself. Now I understand that I don't suffer alone, even if the circumstances are slightly different."
Upon impulse, Gage took her hand from his shoulder and lifted it to his lips to brush a fleeting kiss across the mocha brown surface of it. He rested his stubbled cheek against it and breathed in the jasmine and rose fragrance of her that filled the car. They found another connection that tied them together other than their sexual tension. Gage hadn't told anyone about his parents in detail and he was comforted that Summer didn't just pity him; she empathized.
Gage glanced at her, his eyes focusing upon her lovely countenance that was strained from his pain and her own. He tenderly placed his hand at the back of her neck to urge her down to his lips. Gage gently kissed her mouth which trembled beneath his as they attempted to get rid of the excruciating traces of their past, and the kiss that ignited between them crumbled those walls.
It turned hungry and fierce, Gage all but forcing Summer across his lap to get more access to her delectable cavern that made his guts tighten with a violent desire that couldn't be fed. However, that need was growing steadily and waiting for the day Summer would be in his arms for the lovemaking of the century.
He tilted his forehead against hers, wrapping his stout arms around her waist and pulled her into the security of his embrace. His fingers traced those lips that made him shudder inside and out, loving the way they were swollen after he gave them a thorough lashing with his own. His gaze elevated to her own, reading the dazed glance he was given. "I don't like you grievin', hellfire," he muttered. "Can't bear it. I wanna do somethin' to ease the ache in you."
He brushed aside a curl from her forehead. "Lemme take you out."
Summer's chocolate eyes traced his face. "To do what?"
Gage shrugged. "I'm up for anythang. Maybe dinner and a movie? Preferably a comedy compared to all this...tragedy."
Summer remained thoughtful, but the look she displayed noticeably showed that she didn't want a dinner and a movie. If she wanted to make their own movie, he would be more than happy to indulge her.
"Dinner and a movie is too common, especially if that's leading to seduction," she uttered contemplatively. "How about taking me dancing, cowboy?"
Gage lifted a dark brow. "What kinda dancin' you want, baby?"
"Hip-hop," Summer said with daring. "Ever been to a hip-hop club? In fact, have you even listened to a song fully through?"
"Yeah, and I admit there's a few that I like, but I ain't never tried dancin' to it," he confessed. "I'm a southern boy from Georgia who couldn't catch a beat if it struck me on the ass."
Summer's face radiated with a smile that was full...and sinful. "But I would like to see that ass move tomorrow night after we get into Houston, and I'm sure I'm going to enjoy every gyration, in rhythm or not."
Summer was in for a thrill as she took a hesitant Gage out onto the dance floor. She was able to teach Gage some moves, and to her surprise, he learned quickly and was able to execute them almost perfectly.
The tension in him was easing up and he was finally able to enjoy himself without feeling like the sore thumb out of so many who were casting them wary glances. Not that it mattered. She was having an excellent time with Gage while their ability to have fun was still at hand. Tyler was coming back into town and their next two days would be dealing with Theo and the reason why they were there in the first place.
She was gradually running out of patience with the slow seduction coming from Gage, even when he wasn't trying to be sexy or endearing, which was what he was. It was something, she shortly learned, that just came naturally to him. Gage could achieve things he wanted by not even trying.
And he was affectionate as well. When they came from the cemetery and had to share a bed, he did nothing but held her, placing chaste kisses on her face to let her know that he was there for her. Summer held onto him tightly as if dreading he was going to be ripped from her.
Summer, though was disgusted with herself, found that she couldn't help being entranced with him. The man could dance circles around death with a smile and mesmerize others while he's at it. She had to hand it to him. Gage was one of a kind.
After learning a couple of new moves, Summer decided it was time for them to sit out for a few songs. They went to a corner booth of the club that was slightly lighted and was hardly bothered. It seemed the most reasonable, since there weren't any speakers to prevent them from shouting at one another.
She stared back onto the dance floor, fascinated by the ocean of people from a variety of backgrounds. Even though it was one of the most popular hip hop clubs in Houston, they didn't discriminate against those of a different color. They understood that every nationality danced, no matter how different their moves were. They were either out of tradition or enjoyment.
Summer could feel Gage shifting in his seat out of the corner of her eye, his presence making her very aware that he wasn't far from being side by side with her.
She smiled at him as he watched people dancing with moves far too complex for him to get in a lifetime. "Enjoying yourself?"
His green eyes zoomed to her, studying her graceful features for a second. "It's an experience, I'll give you that much," he divulged. "I ain't never been in a club like this. Not when people can dance to show off or outta anger for another. It's somethin' I ain't used to."
Summer laughed softly. "It's a lot safer than taking a fight outside," she explained. "It's another way to get a point across without actually resorting to violence."
Gage snorted at that. "What a bunch of pussies. Gimme a gun and knife any day compared to takin' someone to the dance floor." His dreamy jade eyes dropped upon her face with a slumberous appearance. "I can think of another alternative to use for dancin', and it ain't got nothin' to do with all these...steps you've been tryin' to teach me."
Summer was almost undone by that statement, especially when he used it so sinfully with his baritone voice soft like velvet. "I guess the dance you mean ensures that you're more involved."
The intensity in Gage's look eased as his eyes lazily traced her face. "Yeah, you could say that," he said idly before placing his gaze upon the dance floor again, the dancing bodies moving quickly to the fast-paced music. Gage's features drew into a frown. "Don't they every play somethin' slow?"
"Occasionally, yeah," Summer said.
"I ain't meanin' that bumpin' and grindin' bullshit. That should be saved for the bedroom," Gage clarified. "I mean the bona fide stuff, where you can seduce a woman just by movin' with her real slow, with a hand at the small of her back and her hand in yours." He glanced again to the dancing crowd, his facade scrunching up contemptuously. "These people don't have a damn clue how to really slow dance and it'd be painful to see them try."
Gage had Summer curious about his dancing experience. "Do you know how to slow dance in the way you're talking about?"
"Oh, yeah," Gage confessed. "In the Susanna Ryan's Etiquette School for Boys, it was required. Granny would take us aside and made damn sure we knew how to slow dance real nice with a woman. She'd also make us dance with each other. I never thought that dancin' could leave you with so many damn bruises, but there wasn't a lesson that Grant, Graham or I wouldn't get into it. But she made us learn."
Summer laughed, imagining in her mind a younger Gage stepping awkwardly on his younger brothers' feet as they tried to dance. She could just see the boys' instant scowls and the pushing, shoving and hitting that escalated afterward because they would rather go hunting than to do something that wasn't manly. Susanna certainly had her hands full of those three. It was a wonder how the woman still managed to keep her sanity intact.
And if the father was like this when he was young, Summer could only visualize how Gage's children would turn out. Rowdy, rebellious, and too handsome and beautiful for their own good.
"What are you thinkin'?" he suddenly asked, catching her off guard.
Summer tried to shield the dreamy look she had on her face as she stared at him. "Nothing, really," she lied. "I was just wondering what dances Susanna taught you?"
"Plain dances, enough," he said. "The waltz, mainly, which came with the course on charm. But I was the underdog in my class, so I even took a few extra courses elsewhere so that I could refine a couple of dances to suit me and my, uh, partner better."