Not My Lover Ch. 14byJazzMatthews©
"It's a pity Gage couldn't join us for breakfast," Tyler replied while he neatly consumed his fare.
Yes, it was a pity. Summer had awakened that morning, realizing that the pillow her arms were embracing wasn't Gage. He had left but managed to leave her a note on her stating that Theo had found something and had it brought to the New Orleans FBI branch. Since she was still asleep, he didn't wish to disturb her. Personally, Summer would have rather be with him instead of facing Tyler by herself, especially this morning. Though her host was cordial, he was acting strange, as if he had a secret he wasn't going to tell.
That was something Summer was afraid of.
Composedly, she answered, "Well, he wanted to visit his cousin, since we were in this part of the country." Fortunately for her, Gage left her a suitable excuse to tell Tyler on his behalf. Hopefully, she could make it believable.
Tyler took a sip of his coffee. "Surprised that he didn't take you along for introductions to his...relative."
Summer observed the trace of humor residing in his quicksilver eyes, as if mocking her. She still remained unruffled at the bait. "I met Guy at the wedding," she responded, giving the "relative" a name. "At any rate, my husband thought it best for me to rest."
Tyler smiled briefly. "I'm sure you needed to. You looked a little fatigued." His smile suddenly faded. "Perhaps it's been years since Gage has seen his...cousin, was it?"
Summer was slightly getting nervous at his questions and how they had this constant fascination with the mysterious cousin.
"In essence, yes. He hardly had time to talk to his cousin at the wedding."
Her host nodded in understanding. "Yet I find it strange, since I was so sure that this was Gage's first visit to the New Orleans FBI."
Summer, who had a fork in her hand, dropped it upon her plate, her eyes broad as they regarded Tyler in surprise. "What do you mean?" she asked.
Tyler leaned forward a little. "Do you honestly think that I wouldn't know who you are, Special Agent Ryan?" He paused briefly. "Or should I say, Eddington?"
Summer said nothing, but her silence spoke volumes. Her shoulders slumped somewhat, admitting the unspoken truth. Tyler took his napkin to place it on the table and stood. He leaned forward again from his end of the table, his weight resting on his knuckles. "Do you not think that I wouldn't have an inside connection within the FBI? I knew you were coming for me, and I allowed you to plant your bugs in my house and holes around my property. Otherwise, you would've been booted off the premises way before then."
Summer's eyes lifted to search his. "Then why didn't you?"
"Quite frankly, I wanted to be entertained," he confided as he left his place to come to the other side of the table, right behind her. "It's been a while since I've had excitement of this kind. The sparring between the both of you kept me constantly in good spirits." He smiled fondly in remembrance. "Especially with the...activity of last night."
Again, his smile disappeared as Summer's cheeks burned with anger and embarrassment. "But I think it's time to call back your husband from his...visitation."
"All right, whatcha got?" Gage asked as they surrounded the surprise Theo brought in. They were also joined by one of the agents for the local branch, Frank Lloyd, who Gage had contacted earlier this morning once Gage had gotten his call from Theo concerning something he had found while still in Houston.
Gage was on a time crunch. It had been difficult to leave the lake house so early with Tyler's lackeys around. And he had left Summer with the wolves, which was why he had to get back to her soon.
Theo walked around a large crate tightly sealed from its shipment from elsewhere. "Customs Agents came across this at the Houston dock," Theo explained. "I had it confiscated and brought here to New Orleans."
Gage's dark brows lifted. "You managed that without trouble? Customs Agents usually investigates these types of shipments themselves." Gage silently studied Theo. He seemed to Gage to be on edge as if he was eager or nervous.
Gage crossed his arms. "Did you steal this?"
Theo was slightly startled by the question before coming to his senses and shaking his head. "Hell no," he denied. "They willingly handed it over like it was hot. From what they told me they've been trying to catch him for the longest time, but they've been wrong on too many occasions. Come to find out that Tyler has threatened them each time they've tampered with his things, so they assumed that it was better for us 'Feds' to handle this one just in case their assumption was wrong again."
Theo lowered himself onto his haunches. "The dogs picked up nothing but this shipment is heavier than most, which is unusual for a billionaire oil tycoon for such a little crate. It's as if it's a box of rocks."
Frank Lloyd walked up to the box intently with a crowbar and swiftly pried it open. To the three men's astonishment, the crate contained little pieces of gold nuggets inside, gleaming in the light. Theo gave a low whistle as his gaze traveled over the bounty.
"That's because it is a box of rocks," Gage mused in a derisive tone, his arms crossed tightly at his chest.
"Well, I'll be damned," Theo swore. "He's illegally importing gold." His eyes drifted to the lid that was literally flung to the floor when Lloyd successfully popped the box open. He gave the address on the lid a glance over. "It comes from Sierra Leone. What would an oil tycoon want with these? Like he isn't rich enough."
"Gold isn't mined in Sierra Leone," Gage pointed out, his voice low and pensive. "They produce diamonds." He paused, the gears in his mind churning. "He can't be usin' this gold for what we think. It's too damn obvious, as if he wanted us to catch him."
Gage studied the address himself, the name from who the shipment was from sticking out the most. "Louis Friend," he whispered.
"What?" Theo chipped up.
"Louis Friend," Gage said with more confidence. "The name of the sender. I've heard it before."
"Is it someone you know?" asked Lloyd. "Perhaps someone you busted a while back wanting to get some kind of vengeance upon you?"
Gage shook his head. "No. No one that I've busted has the brain capacity to come up with something like this. Come to think about it, this is a job that coulda been handled by the Houston branch. It's enough for them to handle."
"If that's the case, then why send you big time Feds down here?" Lloyd questioned.
Gage remained quiet for a moment. The whole thing was stumping him. "I don't know," he confessed. "For the record, I ain't likin' this one damn bit."
"I hear you on that, man," Theo agreed. "But what I want to know is what is up with this 'Louis Friend' dude. He sounds fake."
Just then, it dawned on Gage. "That's because he is."
Theo and Frank Lloyd's eyes turned to a contemplative Gage, who was slowly unfolding the riddle in his mind. "Don't you get it?" he asserted. "Ya'll never saw or read Silence of the Lambs?" He received a couple of blank stares and Gage sighed roughly as he began walking around the crate. "Louis Friend? Rearranged properly, you get Iron Sulfide." A corner of his mouth lifted ironically. "Pyrite. Fool's Gold."
Theo's gaze snapped to the crate of fake gold, his eyes wide with understanding. "Son of a bitch!" he swore foully again.
Gage chuckled bitterly. "I gotta hand it to him. The bastard's got a sense of humor."
Lloyd was frowning at the way the puzzle had been completed. "So what the hell does all this mean?"
Gage's smile faded, his demeanor instantly turning into something serious. It might have been a creative joke, but the joke was all on him.
"This whole damn thang is a set up," he divulged. His olive green eyes exchanged a worried glance with Theo. He had a bad feeling about what was unraveling around him.
He voiced the one thing that had him full of concern. Gage knew he should've dragged her out of bed to come with him but with their extra-curricular activity on last night, she wouldn't have been very active in this matter. But now, he had to go to her.
He turned on his heel for the door without sparing Theo or Lloyd good-bye, but he stopped dead just as he felt his cell phone vibrate in his coat pocket. Without looking at the screen, he knew exactly who was calling and with a sinking feeling in his gut, he was also aware of the circumstances.
Gage fished it out of his pocket, pushed a button, and lifted it to his ear. "Ryan," he answered with reluctance.
"I suppose by the sound of your voice, you know the reason for this call?"
Gage swallowed nervously at hearing the unruffled voice of his enemy sailing through the receiver. He, on the other hand, couldn't remain as serene. He was thinking of one thing and one thing only.
"Where's my wife?" he asked in this deadpan tone.
"No harm has befallen her," Tyler reassured. "At least, not yet. If you wish her to remain that way, I suggest that you leave your Federal friends and return with speed and without their company."
Gage didn't like threats. His left hand flexed at his side into a tight fist, feeling his knuckles crack involuntarily. The thought of Summer being harmed sent a fire of hatred straight into his body. "I swear, if you even think about harmin' her..." His hand tightened, the phone slightly cracking beneath the pressure issued from his tense fingers. "...there ain't no money in this world that'll save you from me."
"You're not in the position to make threats," Tyler reminded him. "I have Special Agent Eddington and I cannot guarantee that she'll remain safe. Remember that."
The line quickly disconnected, shutting off the only connection Gage had with Summer. Placing his phone away, he glanced at the two men waiting for him to say something, but Gage couldn't find any words to voice what he was feeling right now. For him to go alone, it was dangerous and as much as he would love to ask the entire FBI for help, he couldn't risk Summer's life.
Theo approached Gage in an apprehensive and uneasy manner. "Was that him?"
Gage diverting his eyes briefly to the ground before he nodded in affirmation. "Yeah," he replied before lifting his gaze to look at both Theo and Lloyd. "Pardon me, gentlemen. I need to go fetch my wife."
Gage was patted down thoroughly once he reached the foyer of the house by one of Tyler's bodyguards. Glancing around the place, the property was crawling with them as if they were the Secret Service. Gage counted at least eight of them patrolling the front property of the outside, and he was sure there were more within. Even still, it was an extraordinary number for someone who wasn't of that much importance.
Glancing around at the leering faces, Gage could have sworn that he had seen some of them before, but he couldn't dwell on trying to remember. He had to set his mind on how to negotiate Summer's freedom, not to mention his own.
He was ushered into a nicely furnished parlor, where the double cherrywood doors slid open to admit him. Just a few steps in, Tyler greeted him with a triumphant smile creasing his mouth, his eye shinning with contentment. Two of his bodyguards stood closely behind him while three others spread out across the room, all wary of him. Gage, however, kept his focus on the man who could decide their fate in a second.
"Nice to see that you could make it, Ryan," Tyler began after an unsettling silence. "I see that you had the decency to drive the speed limit this time. However, I fear that I'm quite disappointed by your progress. I had foolishly assumed that you would've gotten here a little sooner."
Gage didn't budge, his bottle green eyes relentless and unwavering. "Where is she?" he asked in a hard tone.
Tyler stepped aside, followed by his two guards who deliberately blocked Summer from Gage's line of vision. She was sitting regally in a chair that was facing away him at an angle, but as she rotated her head into his direction, he witnessed the tranquil appearance on her face, yet her eyes told of her apprehension. Just by staring into her eyes now, Gage could tell that she knew he didn't have a plan to get them out of this, and for that solid second, Gage was ashamed that he didn't. If he couldn't save his life, he would do his damnedest to save hers.
Gage's strenuous eyes diverted back to Tyler, who earnestly watched their silent exchange.
"Let her go," he demanded.
Tyler shook his head. "No, I'm afraid I can't do that. It's important for the both of you to stay here." He returned Gage's intense gaze. "I know you've figured out the 'Louis Friend' message."
Gage snorted contemptuously. "Yeah, I got your screwed sense of humor. Now what do you want with us?"
"I want to gain information from you, Special Agent Ryan, that may save your life..." He locked his gaze onto Summer. "...and hers."
Tyler raised a gun that he had hidden beneath the double-breasted coat of his suit and pointed it toward Summer's heart as his silver eyes traced her calm countenance.
"Do you care for this woman?"
Gage's eyes narrowed in misunderstanding. "What?"
Tyler's eyes lifted back to Gage. "Do you care for this woman, Special Agent Ryan?" he repeated. "Or better yet, do you love her?"
The question was like a blow to his stomach, and Gage could hear nothing but the strong, resilient strum of his heartbeat. His eyes went from Tyler to Summer as she continued to stare at him, expressionless.
His mind sped through all the excuses or lies he could conjure but was forced to look at the truth in himself. Gage remembered when his brother had faced a situation similar to this, willing to give his life so that Alexa could live. He understood Grant to be in love but never fully comprehended the potent stirrings and imprudent actions that the emotion willed someone to endure. In the past, Gage was unable to sacrifice himself for someone because of love, but now, as he stared at the gun that was aimed at her, he knew what he had been trying to deny.
He knew that he loved Summer Eddington.
Gage loved her attitude, her passion, her body and her mind. He had been attracted to her from the first, she had known as he did. He knew that he would one day get her into his bed but never thought that he would be overwhelmed by the fanatical desire that she had given him and that he would want her to stay there.
And with him realizing this wouldn't exactly help him now. It had been a full minute since the revelation of his feeling for her, but he dared not to reveal those emotions, even to her, in fear that they would be exploited. He had been taught well to veil his inner feelings. Though the warring in his soul was still raging on, Gage hesitated to give an answer, his eyes darkening in anger as he kept his feelings for Summer bottled within.
Tyler observed Gage closely for any sign of compassion, but he could read slight conflict within him by the way Gage's body was tense. He chuckled musingly. "Hard question to answer, isn't it?" he said. "It's even harder for a man of your circumstance to admit himself in love, especially aloud." Again, he took a brief look to Summer before turning his attention back to Gage. "Or to her."
While Tyler was determined to gain an answer from a brooding Gage, Summer realized that he was no longer paid attention to her and she seized the momentary distraction. She raised her foot to kick the gun pointed at her out of his hand, knocking her chair back in the process. Summer tumbled backward until she was in a crouching position. She instantly sprung into action, taking out the nearest guard with swift justice.
Gage snapped out of his trance, his body instantly readying itself for battle. He moved a little to his right before he leaped forward, his arms ringing around the necks of two of the guards nearby before using his own bodyweight to bring them down.
While he crawled on top of one, the other began to sit up and Gage's long leg reaching over to greet the man's forehead with his shin, knocking the guard out. The bodyguard beneath him began bucking to unseat Gage, but Gage gave his antagonist a solid punch to the temple, rendering him unconscious.
Summer was finishing off her second guard after punching him a few times and throwing him over her shoulder. She managed to wrangle his gun from him before he landed on the floor with a painful thud. Directly, she pointed the gun at Tyler, who placed his hands in the air in surrender. But behind her, a bodyguard appeared, took aim with his own firearm and pulled the trigger.
Summer felt a slight, burning sting in her left arm and released a brief hiss of pain. Despite her arm throbbing, Summer switched the gun to her left hand despite the pain within it, managing to keep it targeted at Tyler, but held her right hand over the spot that was in agony. She felt her hand meet with something warm and wet and knew instantly that it was blood.
The sharp retort of the gunshot had alerted Gage, who was now armed and dangerous from the rush of adrenaline through his bloodstream due to the fight for their lives. Gage witnessed the expression of pain that flickered across her mahogany face and knew that she had been hurt.
With resolution and antagonism strong in his being, Gage rushed over to her, taking aim and firing rapid shots at Summer's assailant. The man was agile, running hard, diving through the air and landing behind an elegant settee, which was now riddled by stray bullets.
"Son of a bitch!" he barked violently as he grabbed a hold of Summer's good arm and dropped his now empty gun. As if reading his mind, Summer passed him her gun as he swiftly hauled her behind him and he charged out of the parlor.
Tyler placed his arms down to his side, glimpsing around the room at his security, those who were either standing or on the floor, unconscious or writhing from their injuries. He furiously crossed the room and kicked one that was groaning on the floor.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?" he bellowed. "Stallings didn't hire you to just stand there! Go after them!"
While he guided them wildly through the foyer, Gage's ears caught Tyler's hollered rant and couldn't believe it. Phillip Stallings, their director and someone Gage had thoroughly trusted, had sent them on a suicide mission. He was in league with Tyler, which made him the enemy. Gage felt thoroughly betrayed, and he vowed silently that once he returned to Washington, Phillip Stallings would have him and his favorite rifle to answer to.
Summer and Gage barged out of the front door, shooting at the men who were keeping the exterior of the house safe before jumping into their car, which Gage was grateful it still cranked. He placed the car into reverse and roared out of the driveway at top speed toward an unknown destination.
But there was one destination they could never return to. They couldn't go back to the FBI. Stallings would have everyone from the agents in Washington to the southern branches looking for them. They would have to dodge each and everyone one of them.
As of this moment, they were alone and could trust no one.
Tyler turned to face the guard who had fired the first shot and punched him hard in the jaw. The younger man reeled from the blow, his face turned to the side as Tyler replied vehemently in a cool tone, "You were given specific orders, and you didn't follow them. It's not I you have to answer to, but to Stallings. And you know he's not a lenient man when it comes to disobedient agents."
With a look of pure disgust, Tyler turned on his polished heel and marched away, leaving the thoughtless agent to lower his head in shame, knowing that his future had just been terminated by a single gunshot.