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Trust Me, Trust Me Not
Amber C. Deck
Trust is never easy. It can be fragile — much like a delicate snowflake. It can also be as dangerous as the brutal winter cold.
Interpol Agent Alerra “Allie” Montague had always had trust issues — ever since she’d been abandoned as a baby. After twelve foster homes and one failed engagement, the thirty-three year old was done with people disappointing her. She’d learned that not trusting others led to less heartache, and it made her one good agent.
At least, it had made her a good agent until this case.
Allie’s assignment had been to escort a visiting government official back to his hotel from the agency’s office in Paris. It had been a routine assignment that she’d done countless times — only this one went wrong. Horribly wrong.
Now, here she was in the snowy woods outside of Berlin with a poorly covered knife wound to her shoulder. She was heading to the one place of the one person she’d swore to never ask for help — Eli Kastnen.
A loud knock on his cabin door caused Eli to reach for the rifle he kept in his coat closet. Peering out of the peephole he’d installed when he’d first moved in, he was surprised to see a woman standing there. Actually, he was more surprised at who the woman was rather than why she was pounding on his door at midnight.
Eli took a moment to glance over the trim, toned frame of the red-haired woman at his door. She was about five-foot-seven, which made her quite a bit shorter than him. Her fair complexion peeked through her bundled-up attire, but, even with the layers of clothing, Eli could tell something was a bit off about her by the way she stood.
Golden eyes looked up into the peephole as if she knew he was staring at her. Eli froze for a moment — unsure if he should open the door or act like he wasn’t home.
“Open the door, Eli. Please. I need your help.” Something in her voice made him reach for the door handle. He unlocked the heavy wooden door and pulled it open — waiting until she was inside to shut and lock it again. “Thank you.”
Allie gently shook the snow off of her as she glanced at Eli. He still looked as handsome as ever. His intense blue eyes, dark-blond hair, and muscular body were all too familiar to her — mostly since Eli was the one who’d called off their wedding. Had that really been four years ago?
“You look good, Eli. I must say that growing a beard works for you.” Allie eased her coat off before glancing at him. His beard was cut short and neat — just like his hair. Typical Eli. “It looks like leaving the agency suited you, too.”
“What are you doing here, Allie?” Eli crossed his arms over his chest. He wasn’t up to dealing with her nonchalant attitude after she’d just shown up out of the blue. “How did you even find me? It’s been four years since you went back home to Paris.”
“I only transferred because you dumped me a week before the wedding. I was heartbroken and scared about being abandoned again.” Allie tensed at the accusing tone in his voice — causing pain to radiate through her shoulder. She forced herself to relax as she looked up at him. She could tell her statement had bothered him by the way he shifted uncomfortably. “I knew you always planned to move out to your family’s cabin. That’s beside the point, Eli. I need your help.”
“I can tell.” A smirk formed on his face. “You kind of look terrible. Have you slept at all in the past four years?”
“For your information, I have slept fine,” Allie replied sharply. “I am only here because I have nowhere else to go. The assignment I was working on fell apart, and… and a member of the French government is in the hospital.” She eased the neckline of her shirt over — revealing the blood-soaked bandage. “The assassination attempt has the hospital on lockdown, which has somehow put me in the assassin’s crosshairs. I was attacked the minute I entered the parking deck at my apartment.”
Eli frowned. “Who knew about the route you were taking on your assignment?”
“Only a handful of people, Eli.” Allie saw the concern in his eyes as he looked at her shoulder. “Don’t worry about this. It’s just a scratch. I need you to help me, Eli, please. You’re still the best agent — even if you refuse to ever walk into an Interpol office again.”
“Yeah, and you already know what being an agent cost me.” Eli walked down the hallway and into his bedroom — emerging a few moments later with a first-aid kit. “We need to properly dress that wound before it gets infected.”
Allie sat down on his couch as he took a seat beside her. Eli placed the kit on the coffee table and began taking supplies from it. Both remained silent as he started tending to the injury on her shoulder.
“I know you left the agency because of me, Eli.” Allie hissed lightly at the burn of the antiseptic before continuing to speak. “I have trust issues — I know that. Despite all of my fears in my personal life, I’ve always trusted you. You’re the only one I could think of to help me. I don’t know who to rely on at the agency right now.” She glanced at him. “Someone wanted a high-ranking government official dead, Eli. I stood in their way, and I’m the one they want dead now.”
Eli remained silent as he finished bandaging her shoulder. Allie tried to get him to look at her — to see what he was thinking. She sighed as she shook her head.
“You don’t have to help me, Eli,” Allie told him as she stood up. “I should never have come here and brought up old memories. I’ll figure out what to do on my own. I always have, haven’t I?”
Eli gently grabbed her hand as she turned away from him — careful not to hurt her shoulder. Allie turned to see him staring up at her with a mixture of emotions that clouded his deep-blue eyes. No man had looked at her like that in a very long time…
“You have always been too stubborn to see that you’re not alone anymore, Allie.” Eli stood up as she turned to face him. “It took years for me to figure out why you had such a hard time settling in one place. I just thought you didn’t want a rough-around-the-edges guy from Berlin, but I soon realized you weren’t used to staying in one place for long.” Eli released her hand. “I will always be here to help you, Allie. No matter if we ever make a relationship work again or not. I’ll always be here.”
Allie didn’t know whether to hug him or slap him for making her feel so terrible. She’d harbored quite a load of guilt since their broken engagement. She’d assumed Eli would have blamed her for everything and just forget about her. Leave it to the agency’s former best undercover operative to keep such a big secret from her.
Before Allie could respond to Eli, a low alarm sounded from somewhere in the room. She watched as Eli’s reaction tensed before he grabbed his TV remote off the coffee table. Pointing it at the TV that hung over his fireplace’s mantle, Eli flipped the screen on to show several security camera feeds. Allie stared at the screen as she watched figures cloaked in white fatigues, moving carefully through the snow.
“They tripped my perimeter alarm.” Eli’s voice was almost a growl. “They are about a mile out from the cabin. I need to get you out of here and call reinforcements.”
“No, Eli.” Allie shook her head vigorously. “I can’t run anymore. About five guys are coming — according to the cameras. I think we can handle this.” She gave him a worried glance as he pulled out his cell phone. “I don’t know who I can trust at the agency, Eli.”
“Luckily, I do.” Eli grinned as he dialed his best friend’s number. Xavier Graffe picked up on the first ring. “X, this is Eli. Got a situation at the cabin. Bring reinforcements, but only people you trust with your life. I don’t know when these guys will take out the cell…”
The line went dead before Eli could finish his sentence. That meant these guys were coming in faster than expected. Eli knew it would take at least half an hour for backup to get there. He just prayed that he and Allie could stay alive long enough for his former team to get there.
“They’re scrambling the cell signal now.” Eli walked over to the coat closet by the door and opened it. He pushed aside the thick coats to reveal a small assortment of weapons neatly hung on the back wall. “How much ammo do you have?”
“Just what is in this.” Allie pulled her 9MM Glock out from where she had tucked it into the back waistband of her pants. “I didn’t exactly get time to go by my apartment and pack a bag. I even rode here in the back of a moving van — not the best place to transport heavy artillery.”
Eli couldn’t hide a grin at her remark. Allie could always make him smile at the worst possible times. Like when they were surrounded by five armed guys who wanted her dead.
“Here, take this.” Eli handed her another 9MM Glock as he grabbed his Ruger 45-caliber handgun. He inserted the clip and grinned at her. “Ready to make some noise, baby?”
Allie smiled and nodded as she cocked her guns. Taking cover behind the sofa, she watched Eli flip over his solid-oak dining table. He grinned at her again as he knelt behind it. Now, it was time to wait…
The front door flew open after one of the intruders gave it a few swift kicks. Four men entered the room — slowly sweeping their weapons from side-to-side as they walked.
Rookie mistake, Eli thought as he nodded at Allie. Time to show these guys who they’re messing with.
Both Allie and Eli rose up slightly behind their hiding spots and fired two shots apiece. The four masked men went down instantly — with each howling in pain. Crimson stained their white fatigues as the men clutched where the bullet went in below the kneecap.
Eli stood and rushed over to the four men — kicking away their weapons. Thankful that he’d remembered to grab the zip-ties before the men arrived, he flipped each one over and secured their hands behind them. Each man groaned in protest as pain shot through them.
“Wait,” Allie said as she stood up from her spot behind the couch. “There’s only four of them. Where is the fifth guy?”
“Slipping through a window in the kitchen as all of this went down.” A female voice with a noticeable French accent came from behind Allie. She spun around to face the fifth masked intruder — gasping as the person removed their face covering. “Surprised to see me, partner? Or, should I say, former partner?”
“Claire LaRue.” Allie eyed the handgun that was aimed at her chest. Her former partner stood about the same height as her, which gave Allie clear visibility to the hatred in the blonde woman’s dark-brown eyes. “I’m not the reason you got fired, Claire. You chose to destroy that evidence — not me.”
“Allegedly. I allegedly destroyed evidence.” Claire spoke through clenched teeth. “You were my partner, Allie. You were supposed to have my back — no matter what. That’s what partners do.” Claire spotted Eli moving toward her. “That’s far enough, Kastnen. Any further and I put a bullet in your long-lost love.”
Allie eyed the gun in Claire’s hands. She clutched the two she held in her hands. If she could only get off a shot first…
“Don’t even think about it, Allie.” Claire glared at her. “Toss your guns over toward the kitchen — both of you.” She grinned as they both did as they were told. “Excellent. Now, we’re just going to have a little chat. One that ends with you confessing to destroying the evidence and me getting my job back.”
“No one would ever believe that.” Eli spoke to her in a calm tone. “Allie is as by-the-book as they come. Not one agent would believe your lies.”
“Shut up!” Claire yelled. The gun in her hand wavered slightly before she steadied it. “They will, too — by the time Allie’s body is found with her heartfelt confession and apology.”
Eli felt his blood run cold. “I won’t let you get away with this, LaRue. I’ll hunt you down and make you pay.”
Claire cackled. “You’ll be dead, too. Poor Eli Kastnen. The former fiancé of a corrupt agent. Allie came to you for help in covering up her crime, but you refused to help the woman you left years ago. In a crime of passion, she shot you before deciding to end her own life.”
“You have thought of everything, haven’t you?” Allie’s mocking tone caused Claire to glare at her. “I do have one question. Why go after a government official first? Why not come directly after me?”
“I needed a diversion, Allie. You taught me that.” Claire gave her a sarcastic smile. “I just had to be a little more extreme in my plan. You can’t always apply your specific methods to everything. How would spilling a drink on my dress make everyone take their attention away from you?”
“How did you get information about the route we were taking? That plan was made weeks after you were terminated from the agency.” Allie was more curious than afraid or angry now. She had to identify any leaks in the agency.
“That was easy.” Claire waved her free hand in the air dismissively. “A group I helped out owed me a favor. They had a hacker, and I needed a way into Interpol’s servers without detection. I was in and out with the information I needed before anyone even knew it.”
“I take it that this group is the same one you allegedly destroyed the evidence for?” Eli’s voice had taken on a hardened tone — as if something had him on edge.
A slight movement in the kitchen caught Allie’s attention, but she kept her expression neutral. She had to be careful not to tip-off Claire. It looked like the cavalry had arrived just in time to save them.
“Enough talking.” Claire gave Eli a look full of hatred before turning her focus back on Allie. “It’s time for you two to play your part in my plan. To make things extra special for you, Allie, I’ll kill him first while you watch.” Claire gave Eli an evil grin. “She never stopped loving you, Kastnen. She’s horrible at telling people anything or sticking by them, but she always loved you.”
“I still love her, too.” Eli’s statement caused Allie to turn her head to face him. “That’s why I am calling the shots on this mission… and I always call for backup.” He started moving toward Allie. “Allie, get down!”
Eli dove for Allie and knocked her to the floor — pinning her underneath him as a shot rang out. Silence followed, which sent a wave of fear through Allie.
Eli wasn’t moving. Had he been hit? Allie thought as her mind raced to catch up with what just happened. Please, Eli. Please be okay.
Footsteps came from the direction of the kitchen — stopping in front of the couple. From her position, Allie couldn’t see who the person was. She was hoping they were on her and Eli’s side.
“Uh. Are you two just going to lie there?” a gruff voice with a German accent asked them. “The threat has been neutralized.”
Allie could feel Eli chuckling as he moved away from her. She gave him a fake scowl as he stood up and extended a hand to her. She glanced briefly at Claire’s still body lying nearby — blood pooling around her as she lay face down on the floor. Allie quickly turned her attention back to Eli.
“I should hit you for that,” Allie told him as she accepted his help in getting up off the floor. “I thought you had been shot.”
“I’m going to let you two sort this out,” the man who’d helped them said — a bit of humor was in his tone. Allie remembered him as being Xavier — Eli’s best friend. “It’s good to see you, Allie. I wish I could stand around and catch up, but I have to call this in. Your team will want to know you’re safe, too.” Xavier handed her his spare satellite phone. “Use this to call. We haven’t found the scrambler yet. Bound to be on one of our lively friends over there.”
Allie thanked him as she accepted the phone. She stared at it for several minutes before Eli placed his arm around her waist.
“What’s wrong, baby?” Eli asked her. “Your team is probably worried sick about you.”
“I’m just trying to think of a way to tell them that I am not coming back to the agency.” Allie looked up at Eli and smiled at his shocked expression.”Do you know you haven’t called me ‘baby’ in over four years? I’ve missed it.”
Eli bent down and kissed her before replying. “You better get used to it then… baby.”
Allie grinned at the man she trusted and loved more than anyone in the world. She knew trust was dangerous, but she had been in more danger by not trusting someone to accompany her on the assignment.
It only took a familiar cabin in snow-covered woods to help her realize that trust made her stronger than ever before.