My Silver Fox Protector by Lauren Cole



“Viktor,tell them to let me go. I haven’t done anything.” I didn’t know if I was terrified or relieved to see the only familiar face I knew.

Viktor walked over to the tray of metal instruments on the counter, and I found myself recoiling, not sure what he would do. He was cold and calculating. He did look like the type of man who would do terrible things to you with tiny little metal instruments.

He fingered the metal. “You’re a liability, Emma. I took a chance bringing you in here, and you’ve done nothing but repay me with headache after headache.”

“I’m not a liability, Viktor. I’m an asset.” I asserted, and it was true. “If you’d just let me spread my wings a little more. I could help the agency so much more. A monkey could do my job, let me help go after these people. It’s the same group. I know it. I think there might even be someone on the inside helping them.”

“You know it?” Viktor mused. “You’re very confident. What proof do you have?” He spun around with a sharp instrument in his hand, his eyes narrowed.

“Well, nothing yet, but if you’d just let me–”

“Enough Emma!” Viktor snapped. “If a monkey could do your job, tell me why I’m holding off the government on your behalf. What value are you adding to the agency? Hmm?”

“What do you mean?” I swallowed hard, watching him turn the instrument over in his hands.

“Why would I go through all this effort to offer you a deal, if you’re just going to throw it in my face?”

“Viktor, please. If you just let me– the hackers… I know they're in Iran.” I was using my one small piece of valuable information, trying to get a bargaining chip.

“You think I don’t know that, Emma? You have one job. And this is your last chance, and if you can’t do it, I can’t offer you protection. Not from the terrorism charges, and not from the people who now seem to be after you. I won’t give you another chance. This is it.” I swallowed hard as he reprimanded me. “Do you understand?” He placed the instrument back on the tray.

I nodded.

“Good. Don’t forget I own you.” He towered over me. “Don’t forget where you’d be without me.” He turned around and headed for the door. “Now that’s enough with all this. You’ll stay in here until I believe, that you believe, what you just agreed to.”

My head spun. “Stay in here? For how long?”

“Oh, and if anyone asks about the bruises on your face, you know the drill. This is classified, not a peep to anyone.”

“But Viktor–” He was already gone, and the door firmly shut behind him.

I struggled against my restraints and rattled them hard, screaming out in rage. But no one else came. Eventually, I got tired, and I laid back and stared at the ceiling tiles. It was my own fault that I was stuck working for the agency. I’d gotten myself into this mess. And over a stupid boy, no less.

In my defense, I was much younger, and didn’t fully understand the weight of what I had been doing at the time. I’d always been good with computers, and my mind was basically built to be a hacker. I’d always been a bit more introverted, and tended to stay home, which lent itself to my growing skill set. Over the years, I got better and better hacking into whatever I wanted, and I got confident, cocky. And it had cost me.

It had started when I was younger, and I’d credit myself more tokens for whatever computer game I was currently playing. Then it had escalated in my early teenage years to updating grades. When word had caught on at school that I had a special skill set, that’s when I’d been paid to start hacking into things for other people. Then, as I got older, the jobs got sketchier, and I got more and more numb to the reality of what I was doing. The lines between right and wrong became extremely fuzzy.

Next thing you know, I was hacking into air traffic control like it was no big deal and changing my ex-boyfriends flight. I was seventeen at the time, and I’d been heartbroken when I found out he’d cheated on me. Everyone knew about it before I did, and it was humiliating. And when I’d heard he was taking his new girl on the family vacation that I was supposed to be joining him on, I snapped. If I couldn’t be with him, and go on that trip as his girlfriend, no one was going on that trip.

I’d rerouted his family’s plane from Cancun to a small town outside of Mexico City. My goal was to just fuck up their vacation and mess with him. At seventeen I probably shouldn’t have been able to do what I did, but because no one really knew what I was doing, not even my dad, there had been no one to guide me back onto the straight and narrow until it was far too late. I’d completely missed out on the wrist slap and gone straight to the prison sentence.

What I did was a big deal. I knew that. But it was made even worse by the fact that there was a prominent government official onboard the plane, and I’d unknowingly delivered that plane into cartel territory. And because I’d been much younger, I’d gotten into the air traffic control system just fine, but I hadn’t mastered the art of covering my tracks quite as well, and I got caught.

My dad’s best friend, Mason Reynolds, was an ex-Navy SEAL and now worked in cyber security for the CIA. My dad had pleaded with Mason to pull some strings and try to help me out. Mason insisted he couldn’t do anything to help, but my dad and I both knew he was behind the call I got, offering me a deal.

That’s when Viktor had contacted me. He’d promised me a full-time, well-paying job, and that the terrorism charges would be dropped, so long as I continued working for his division, a black op cyber security team that was under a branch of the CIA. The division executed and protected classified intel and missions that most people couldn’t stomach knowing about. It was off book and integral to the agency. It was a lifeline, but if I grabbed on, it would require devoting my entire life to the job. Otherwise, I’d be right back where I started.

With this job you were either in, or you were out. Complete and total devotion or bust.

As I stared at the ceiling, I felt enraged. One poor decision and here I was trapped for life. Maybe going to prison was the better option. Whether I was working for Viktor, and the agency, or I was locked up on terrorism charges, I was trapped either way. I was in a prison of my situation, and there was nothing I could do about it. I hated how helpless it made me feel.

I laid there not knowing what time it was, or how many minutes or hours had passed. I felt utterly alone. My dad didn’t know what I really did. Even though I knew Mason worked in Cyber Security, I doubted Mason knew what I really did. Even if he did know, I couldn’t risk talking to him about it, not that we saw each other regularly these days.

My job was highly classified, and I was strictly forbidden from discussing it with anyone. I was utterly isolated and alone in it. Tonight was proof of that. Maybe I needed to do what Viktor said, just put my head down and do the work. Maybe it wasn’t all that bad. Maybe it was my own fault for pushing the limits.

I tried to push the bubbling desire for more down and out of my mind. I looked at the bruises down my arms, and the blood smeared down my tank top and shuddered. The memory of what had happened earlier in the night slowly pushed past the pounding fog in my head.

What was worse, getting attacked in my own home, or getting attacked in prison, if I kept this behavior up. I wasn’t really sure.

I mulled over the situation. Who had come to attack me? And how had I ended up here at the agency facility? Had they gotten my message and found me just in time? Why didn’t I think to ask Viktor about my attacker? See if he knew anything. I huffed, that was probably my only chance to get any information out of him about the events of tonight. After this, it would be a death sentence if I brought it up with him.

The events were fuzzy, and it didn’t add up. There was something I just couldn’t put my finger on, something almost familiar, maybe even hesitation from my attacker. I couldn’t be sure, but something about the whole situation didn’t sit right with me.

I had stabbed my attacker, and when I’d tried to escape, he’d shot at me, but he didn’t shoot me. He had held me at knifepoint, but hadn’t– and then I remembered my hair.

With my hands strapped down, I couldn’t reach up and feel the damage, but I cried. Of all the things, it was silly, really. Hair grew back, and thank God it wasn’t a finger like he’d threatened. But it was violating all the same to have your hair cut off like that. My hair was a bit of a security blanket for me, and my cheeks felt acidic as the tears streamed over them. And maybe I was crying about my hair, and maybe I was using it as an excuse to release the emotion of what I’d just been through; thinking I was about to be murdered in my own kitchen.

I jolted as the door to my cell suddenly clicked open and in strode a tall, muscular man, with warm tanned skin, and muscles that strained deliciously against the edges of his T-shirt. I sucked in a sharp breath as his warm brown eyes caught mine, and I felt a flush of heat splash up my chest and cheeks, and I squeezed my thighs together as that flush trickled into my core with nervous longing.

“I heard you weren't doing so hot.” His deep voice washed over me, making my insides swirl.

“Mason.” I whispered, looking around. “What are you doing here?” I was completely caught off guard and baffled as to why he would be allowed in here.

“How you holding up?” His gaze swept over me as he approached the table I was strapped to. I flinched at being unable to move, while my dream man hovered so closely over me.

He unclasped the straps around my wrists, and then I tried to steady my breath as his hand momentarily touched the skin on my waist as he unclasped the restraint across the middle of me. I pushed myself up to my elbows and watched as he moved down to my feet, and his thumb grazed the soft inside of my ankle as he undid the strap. I felt my center tighten with slick heat in response.

“I’m fine.” I managed to squeak out.

“You don’t look fine.”

“I’m fine.” I ground out. I said it to convince myself just as much as Mason. I couldn’t afford to crumble, not when the stakes were this high. I had to keep my head on straight and keep moving forward. My life depended on it.

He stood at the foot of the table, leaning on the edge, causing the corded muscle in his forearms to fan. I sat propped up on my elbows, finding myself momentarily distracted by the salt and pepper strands streaking their way through his perfect dark head of hair. He was so fucking handsome, and he took my breath away, I’d imagined what it would be like to be with him more times than I could count. Imagined those muscular arms pressing me up against the wall while he thrust into me. I shuddered at the thought and swallowed hard.

Mason was my dad’s friend, and he’d known me since I was younger, more awkward, and immature, and I was sure that was all I measured up to now. Especially being strapped to this table like a toddler having a tantrum.

Mason was so out of my league, and I tried not to think about how much that hurt. I’d never wanted anyone more.

My hand, now free, shot up to my hair, and I felt the blunt short ends that fell around my shoulders.

“This line of work can be dangerous.” He rumbled. I flicked my eyes up and could have sworn I felt his gaze flick across my chest, but it happened so fast I thought I might have imagined it. “You need to be more careful.”

I eyed him, not sure exactly how much he knew. My understanding was that Mason worked for the CIA, but I didn’t know where or what he did exactly. It was a lot of smoke and mirrors for both of us. What I did know was that he was a medal awarded soldier. He had honor in what he did. I, on the other hand, was not even technically acknowledged by the government. I was the black sheep that they hid, and if need be, would dispose of, without a trace, if they needed.

“Let’s go.” Mason walked around the table to help me up.

“Where?” I asked, confused.

“You’ll be staying with me.”

“What, why?”

“Your dad called me and asked me to keep an eye on you.”

“My dad knows what happened?”

Well, yes, that you were robbed.Mason looked at me pointedly. It was almost a question, another test.

I slowly nodded my head, trying to decipher if that’s what Mason believed, or if that’s just what he was saying. If he was here, part of me wondered how much truth he actually knew. The fact that he was standing with me in this facility was evidence that he knew more than he’d let on in the past.

Not just anybody waltzed into the agency. Not even me for that matter. I only came here when I was invited or in trouble. Both of which I tried to keep to a minimum if I could.

I got up from the table and my head started to swim, causing me to stumble forward.

“Easy.” Mason grabbed me and stabilized me. His big, warm hands gripped my waist and planted me firmly against the table.

The room started to spin.

“You good?” Mason ground out, but his eyes were flashing over me with heavy concern. I squinted at him, trying to bring his face into focus.

“Yeah, I’m fine.” I gripped the side of the table and felt the cool linoleum under my feet. I realized I didn’t have any shoes. “I don’t know where my shoes are…” I mumbled out, clutching my head as it pounded.

Mason gripped me tighter as I swayed.

“I’m just– I need to sit for a second…” And then I passed out.