Not My Lover Ch. 16byJazzMatthews©
Gage mounted the stairs of the porch of his grandparents' Georgia home, disheartened. After two days of staring at the walls of his empty apartment, it was enough to try his sanity. Recollections of her assailed him until he went mad with misery. From the bathroom to the bedroom, Gage made love to Summer everywhere in that apartment and it was painful to have each room harbor such a passionate memory.
Susanna glanced briefly out one of the windows before opening the screen door and waited for her grandson on the porch. Truthfully, she hadn't expected Gage at all, nor was she pleased by the sullen expression occupying his face. She feared the worse.
Gage froze on the last step as his grandmother came out to greet him. This was the one woman who would've been the last person to barge into his business when she usually respected his reserved nature.
Tension and grief filled his body as his mouth set into a mutinous line, his emerald eyes filled with deep anguish. "Why?"
Susanna wrung her hands with fretfulness, not very keen on the hard tone her grandson asked with that simple question. She wasn't ready for even answering but had prayed that the plot to get Summer and Gage together would be successful and Gage wouldn't have cared for an explanation. "I couldn't watch you suffer," she plainly responded.
Gage grimaced as vehemence took root within him. "What goddamn good that did!" he snarled spitefully. He took a step closer. "She's gone."
Susanna's face softened at the news and after glaring at her unwaveringly for a few more seconds, Gage indignantly brushed past her without another word and slammed the screen door behind him. His grandmother stared after him, tears trickling down her countenance now wrought with the wretchedness Gage brought home with him.
"You usually don't like my cooking," Mina observed as she sat at the table with a cup of coffee to watch her granddaughter eat her second helping. "Especially if it deals with any part of a pig."
Time had flown fast since Summer's flight from Washington to her grandmother's home in Texas. For the past four and a half weeks, Summer spent the time in deep recuperation, mentally, physically and spiritually. Crying out her emotions alleviated the pain a little, but it could never help the times when she really wanted Gage.
But she just couldn't see him again. It would be too heartrending.
Taking a forkful of food, Summer replied, "I still don't."
Mina thoughtfully stared before she leaned over and felt Summer's forehead. "You sick, honey?"
Summer shook her head. "Not that I know of. I feel perfectly fine except at times. I think I've caught a stomach bug or something."
Mina knew that Summer had been ill, and if she had to guess, it sure wasn't the stomach flu. She was just allowing Summer time to adjust and seek the truth out for herself. Her grandchild had been through so much over the past few weeks. This was just another problem to top the cake.
"Do you usually throw up in the mornings?"
Summer paused to take a couple of sips of water. "Most of the times, yeah," she admitted, "but sometimes it happens after I eat something that doesn't agree with me."
She glanced up to find her mema staring at her and she frowned. "What?"
"Didn't you tell me that you were intimate with Gage?" Mina brought up.
"Yes, but..." The color drained from Summer's face, awareness dawning on her. She had a premonition it was true but she was firm to deny that it could ever be possible.
"Impossible," she whispered.
"Possible, baby," her grandmother asserted. "Without any use of protection, that's a good way of getting pregnant."
Pregnant. All those times Gage was deep within her, not once had he worn a condom and she had convinced herself that she would never have sex again after Jared, so she stayed away from birth control. Reviewing the facts made the matter as plain as day, yet Summer's mind and will still raced with turbulent denial.
She rose from her chair, whipping around to face her grandmother while she paced the floor. "But God can't be that cruel!" she cried. "For me to finally be away from Gage and I get blessed with his child?"
"But maybe God is blessing you in this way to tell you something."
Summer stopped, her eyes cynical as they narrowed on Mina. "Like what?"
"Like you're destined to be with Gage."
Summer scoffed painfully at that, continuing in her pacing as her negativity shielded herself from anything her grandmother was saying that contained any sentiments of hope. "No, I'm not. He referred to kids as a disease. He told me so himself." She faltered in her striding once more and she unconsciously cradled her stomach, almost in a protective gesture. "I don't want a man who can't tolerate his baby's mother near my child."
Her mouth lifted agonizingly in contemplation, witnessing the double-sidedness of this "blessing" she had received. "I've always wanted children," she disclosed faintly, her gaze pensive. "If there's a child, I'm going to take my blessing and walk."
Mina's dark brown eyes clashed with those of her grandchild, obviously disturb by Summer's decision. "But you have to tell Gage, Summer. He's the father!"
Summer stood rigid by her prompt assessment. "I want a man who's willing to take responsibility for his actions, Mema," she stated. "If this child is supposed to have a father, I just hope it's in my will to give it one."
Mina stood, her hands bracing the table as her face contorted into slight reproach. "This is wrong and you know it. It should be Gage to decide whether or not to be in this baby's life. You didn't do the act by yourself, Summer. Don't decide what's best for this child on your own."
Summer had a pang of remorse deep within her. She knew very well that it was wrong denying Gage what he needed to know, but she just couldn't see him again. Most of all, despite his reputation, Gage might have the obligation to stay married to her or support her with the child but would begrudge her all the while. She would rather him remain in the dark than to be the recipient of his constant loathing and condemnation.
"I'll make the decision for him, since I know very well what it's going to be," Summer sighed. "I don't want my son's heart broken because his father doesn't love him or despises his mother."
Mina frowned. "Your son?"
Summer froze when she recognized her spoken mistake.
It had slipped out so naturally that she hadn't even realized she had said it until her grandmother called her on it. Deep down, she knew it was true. She was carrying Gage's child, but not only that, his son. She could just perceive in her mind Gage's manly pride if he knew about his son. How he would gloat about how his handiwork had achieved the ultimate man's pride: a boy to resemble his father in every way.
Even now, Summer could feel his likeness slowly molding the image of their son. She understood that along with this blessing came a curse. For the next few years of this child's life, even with him being raised miles away from his father, the boy would grow up to be just like Gage. Her son would possess the same appearance, bodily and facial, and also inherit his father's bearing and style. She even had a gut feeling that this baby would obtain his father's devilish green eyes, a haunting reminder of the man who possessed her heart would live inside the soul of her child. The child he doesn't want.
Her grandmother waited for clarification on her assumption of carrying Gage's son, but Summer refused to give her one. Mina shrugged when she didn't receive an answer then said, "Then what will you tell the child when he's older?"
Summer crossed her arms. "That I was artificially inseminated or something. I'll think of some white lie that won't hurt too badly, even if he finds out later about the true circumstances of his birth."
Mina shook her head sadly, disappointed in the path Summer was going. "I can't let you do this," she declared, her voice poignant with sorrow. "Gage has the right to know."
"You can never tell him, Mema, please?" she implored, her moonless dark brown eyes suddenly filling with tears. "If he ever finds out about the baby, he might do something about it out of obligation, but I can't have him resent me for tying him down."
The tears occupying her eyes slid down in steady rivulets, no longer hiding her pain. "His craving for only my body has hurt me enough. I can't be with a man who doesn't love me enough in return. I can't bear it, Mema. Understand?"
Witnessing the agony etched in Summer's lovely features made Mina relent and gave a nod of understanding. She was so positive that Gage loved Summer, and perhaps he did but through his manly pride, hadn't divulged his feelings. Their love for each other was obvious to everyone else but them. If only she could do something more, but Summer begged her to be reticent upon the matter.
"What will you do then?" she asked at last.
Summer resumed her seat adjacent to her grandmother. "I might take a couple of more assignments before I send in my resignation. I'll move down here to a small town where I know Gage couldn't find me. I managed to get my teaching certificate a few months back from an online university. I'll start applying to small town schools as soon as I can get my résumé ready. At any rate, I have enough money saved up to support the baby and myself until I'm hired."
"Susanna and Conrad Ryan would be sorely disappointed not to see their great-grandchild," Mina mentioned. "I would be if you hadn't revealed this to me."
Summer hadn't thought about that. She adored Gage's family and it troubled her to think she was forbidding her son to ever see that side of his family. How he could never play Cops and Robbers with his cousin, Aurora, or to be taught how to horseback ride by his great-grandfather, or even taste the delicious peach cobbler Susanna baked up fresh from their orchard.
Oh, she regretted he would miss out on such a fine childhood, but her pride and wounded heart got in the way and she actually felt that this was for the best.
It just had to be.
Gage was making everyone despondently sick with his sulking attitude. For the past five weeks, he had ignored all phone calls from his brothers wanting to apologize and from his boss. He was even past caring if he still had a job. The only concern that was occupying his mind was the location of his wife and whether or not she was safe.
Heartsick or not, Gage was forbidden to laze around the house. Almost the same day he arrived, his grandfather placed him to work upon the farm and orchard. If there was one thing Conrad Ryan wouldn't tolerate was a lazy man and forcing Gage to work was a temporary cure of keeping his mind off Summer.
Upon one afternoon, Gage sat in the kitchen, eating heartily a bowl of appetizing stew and a slice of cornbread his grandmother had prepared for lunch. As he broodingly partook of his food, Gage didn't even spare Susanna a glance as she came into the kitchen. She smiled affectionately at her grandson as he continued to savor his lunch.
"Mm-hmm," came the mumbled reply.
Susanna fixed herself a bowl before she seated herself across from him. They ate in complete silence, Gage more fascinated in watching his stew disappear with each spoonful than to put up conversation. Susanna considered him meditatively, troubled by this uncommunicative persona that wasn't him. Out of all her boys, Gage would be the first to speak up before Graham or Grant ever would. He was the oldest, therefore, he was the leader of their pack and the two youngest looked up to Gage for guidance. But the fierce resolved that was instilled in Gage had suddenly vanished and she was determined to find it again. Anything to get back her grandson's courage.
Susanna dabbed her mouth with a napkin before taking a swallow of peach tea. "Care to talk about it?" she finally probed.
Gage shook his head in a negative gesture.
"You gotta open up sometime, sweetheart."
Gage musingly pushed a piece of potato with his spoon. "Ain't nothin' to talk about."
She was exasperated. Five weeks with his mind-set wasn't the best thing to live with.
"Haven't you even tried to contact her?"
Eventually, his perceptive emerald green eyes elevated to collide with hers but they were bitter in greeting, lacking the usual warmth she had known Gage to possess. His jaw ticked. "Ya'll have done a bang up job meddlin' in my life, but it'll be better if ya'll just leave it the hell alone."
Susanna was cut off short by the ring of the phone. She refused to budge, stubbornly persistent to give Gage his past-due attitude adjustment. She glared at him with her own jade-colored eyes as he idly helped himself to another spoonful of stew before his gaze returned to hers. "Ain't you gonna get that?" he asked impartially.
Sighing dejectedly, Susanna gave in and rushed to the phone. "Hello?" she inquired, pausing for the caller to make themselves known. "Graham, darlin', how are you?"
Gage rolled his eyes heavenward and continued to eat, but his ears perked to listen closely to the one-sided conversation.
"I'm glad to hear it," Susanna went on cheerfully. "Everyone's doin' fine." Her eyes shifted to Gage, observing his handsome profile. "Yes, he's still here." Another pregnant pause. "Yeah, he's doin' that too. Your grandfather couldn't stand his poutin' and put him to work the moment he got here. If anythang, he's glad your brother's here. He's definitely gettin' some work done on the farm."
Work? His grandfather was working him like slave. There wasn't a day that went by that Conrad didn't find something to occupy majority of Gage's time, which he didn't mind it overly much. Anything was better than enduring reflections of Summer all day. He had to deal with that during the numerous sleepless nights he suffered through without her body and company.
"I'm not sure if he wants to, but I'll ask." Susanna lowered the receiver to rest upon her shoulder as she caught Gage's attention. "Your brother wants to talk to you, dear."
"To hell with him," Gage muttered with hateful conviction.
Susanna's eyes broadened, positively shocked by the sharp retort. "Gage!"
Gage let his spoon drop onto the table next to him, his gaze shrewd. "He's the main reason that I'm damned miserable right now, so if he knows what's good for him, he'll keep the hell away from me or I'll send him to hell courtesy of my foot."
His grandmother, blanching with each syllable, nervously placed the phone back by her ear. "I'm afraid Gage is still angry, love," she said softly.
Gage scoffed at that reply stated so serenely at his expense. "Angry? Hell, I passed angry weeks ago. I'm freakin' pissed off!"
He cooled his ranting when his ears picked up the sound of footsteps approaching from the hall connecting the living room to the kitchen. His head drooped with weariness. God, how he didn't want to resume his tiresome labor, but Gage couldn't tell his grandfather no. Conrad wouldn't stand for it and he wasn't afraid to take a belt to his thirty-two year old grandson.
Gage chewed thoroughly on a slice of carrot, his attention consumed only by the stew. "I'm almost done, Granddaddy," he sighed without looking behind him. "Just lemme finish and I'll be outside in a minute."
"I'll be sure he gets that message."
Gage stilled in his eating, recognizing the twang of that voice and due to the lilting, youthful tones, he knew it wasn't his grandfather. He turned to look over his shoulder, his now malicious eyes narrowed on the blue ones belonging to his brother.
The conspirator was on his cell phone, a flawless smile spread across his face. Scrutinizing Graham's self-righteous smirk made Gage's disposition even more threatening. Graham's daring grin only got broader.
He ended his call and placed his cell into his pocket, his fine figure relaxing into a manly stance. "So, you're still mad at me, huh?"
Gage rose to his full height to greet his grinning brother...with his fist. Graham wasn't expecting so much power behind Gage's fist of fury and fell upon the floor. Gage was on his brother instantly, lifting Graham forcibly to his feet and compulsorily propelled him into a nearby wall. Susanna cried out as the china hanging on the wall shook violently at the force of Graham's broad back hitting it. She absolutely abhorred fighting in her kitchen, especially when it involved physical violence with her boys. Even still, Gage was damned satisfied to see that conceited grin of Graham's had evaporated from his boyish visage.
Graham gingerly rubbed his smarting jaw, his eyes contemptuously aimed at his fuming older brother. "I take it that you are," he deemed before he spat upon the floor, examining the spittle for the mixture of blood. A horrified gasp emerged from his grandmother and his gaze rose to monitor the livid expression cross her face, upset about what he had just done to her exceptionally spotless floor. "Sorry, Grams."
Gage's intolerant temperament got the best of him and he briefly shook his brother. "Why did you stick your nose in my life?" he questioned sternly. "It didn't concern you!"
Graham's bearing abruptly became dangerously deadpan, his glower almost matching Gage's. "You mopin' your ass off is damned depressin' to everyone around here. It was about time someone did somethin' to get you to realize how much she means to you!"
Gage's resentment and hold relented somewhat at Graham's words while he pressed on with his point. "It was damned obvious to everyone that you loved her. You bein' a thorn in the ass was an indication of how you felt. I did what I did so you could realize that you cared for her and I was tired of seein' you hurtin' so badly, as we all were."
Gage's brows ebony eyes knitted into a sinister scowl. "I still lost her!" he shouted with a brutal shake for emphasis. "It's your fault!"
"Like hell it is," Graham countered. "That's your problem, you stubborn idiot. Didn't you even bother to tell her you love her?"
Gage's face eased into self-condemnation, all thanks to the well-placed jab delivered from the one person who has made sense to him throughout this entire charade, though Gage heartily blamed his unhappiness on him. But Graham was keen enough to know that Gage was stubborn when it came to reveal his feelings. He had bottled up whatever he felt about their parents within until he met Summer. She was the only precious soul he revealed those feelings to, yet she was the only person who didn't know that Gage loved her with everything within him. And he had paid for the error of putting it off for the past five weeks, wasted in total desolation.
Graham beheld the array of emotions flicker across Gage's now relaxed features and instantly understood the silent answer. "Judgin' by that, I'd say you hadn't. But I'm right, ain't I? You love her?"
His older brother blinked before nodding his head. It was easier to admit that truth now. It was the next big step before admitting the real thing verbally to Summer.
"If you love her so much, then why the hell are you sittin' here on your goddamn ass stuffin' your face instead of out there lookin' for your woman?" Graham scolded.
Gage's eyes reflected his vexing disillusionment. "Don't know where to look."
Graham's navy blue gaze told of irritation and disbelief. He sighed jadedly. "I'm sure she told you somethin' of a place she goes to get away from the world," he imparted. "At any rate, you're Gage Ryan, one of the best damned trackers in the FBI. You could find a person like nothin' to it. I know you could at least find your own wife."
"And what if she doesn't wanna be found?"