Theirs to cherish, p.13
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       Theirs to Cherish, p.13

         Part #8 of Wicked Lovers series by Shayla Black
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Page 13

 

  “Yes. ”

  “That was fast. ” The smart girl had always impressed him, but even more so tonight. “Thank you. ”

  “Don’t thank me yet. I’ve got some information for you. It’s only preliminary, but . . . I don’t think you’re going to like it. ”

  Thorpe’s gut tightened. He’d wanted to be wrong. Son of a bitch. “I didn’t expect to. Tell me. ”

  “Sean Kirkpatrick’s story survives a cursory glance, like you said. But once I started digging, it seems that he doesn’t appear anywhere, at least under that name, until eight months ago. I also can’t find a record of anyone with that name and face becoming a U. S. citizen in the last decade. The first appearance of him I have is the supposed creation of an LLC in the state of Florida earlier this year. ”

  “He told Callie that he lives there now. He claims to belong to a club outside of Miami. His references checked out, but . . . ”

  “It’s possible he paid someone for that. ”

  “Exactly,” Thorpe agreed.

  “Almost immediately after he started the company, a major Fortune 100 corporation supposedly hired his services. Do you know how tough a gig that is to get?”

  “Exceedingly. You usually have to know someone. ”

  “Or be sucking their di— um, be intimate with them. ”

  Thorpe managed a smile at her slipup, despite the grim situation.

  Tara smoothed over the moment by continuing on. “He rented a corporate apartment in Dallas under the name of his LLC back in April. ” She rattled off the address, and he jotted it down. A newer part of town with lots of corporate presence and no nightlife. “He signed a six-month lease. When October rolled around, he started extending it month by month. Other than that, Sean Kirkpatrick has one relatively new credit card, no bank account, no immigration visa, no mortgage, no car loan, no record of marriages or divorces, no court dates, no arrest record, no school records . . . nothing. He’s a ghost. ”

  Sitting back in his chair, Thorpe sucked in a breath. “The way he set up his identity, do you think he’s a con artist?”

  “What does Callie have that he’d want to steal?”

  “Absolutely nothing. ” On the surface. But over the last decade, the bounty on Callie’s head had grown to two million dollars. What if Sean Kirkpatrick had somehow pieced together her identity and managed to trail her here?

  Thorpe’s blood ran cold. He swore that he’d take care of Kirkpatrick once and for all.

  “I was afraid you were going to say that. ” Tara sighed. “Seven months seems awfully patient for a stalker, but at this point, I’m not sure if I’d rule that out. I honestly don’t know what else to think. ”

  “I’ve got some ideas. If you come across anything else, let me know, would you?”

  “Of course. Something is definitely off with this man. ”

  As Thorpe had suspected for some time. “I appreciate everything you’ve done. ”

  “My pleasure. You know Callie isn’t ever going to be my best friend . . . but I’m worried for her. ”

  He gripped the phone tightly. “Me, too. ”

  They rang off, and Thorpe didn’t waste a minute. He left his office and crept down the hall to Callie’s room, letting himself in with the key. He spied her sleeping in the moonlight, all curled up in a sea of downy quilts and soft pillows. One naked leg peeked out, from her supple hip to her little pink toes. No way he could forget having his face between her sleek thighs, but somehow he had to.

  Thorpe turned and found a partially eaten pizza sitting in a box on her dresser. When the hell had she ordered that? No idea, but nothing else looked out of place. Her phone sat charging on the nightstand, and he swiped it, then dashed back into his office.

  It didn’t take him long to figure out that her password was his birthday. And didn’t that just add a kicker of guilt to this torment cocktail? He browsed her recent calls and found one she’d missed from Sean earlier tonight. Gotcha!

  He touched the screen, and the image changed to Sean’s annoying mug as the call connected.

  “Callie?” the man didn’t sound groggy or disoriented in the least.

  “Not quite. Guess again. ”

  “What the fuck do you want, Thorpe? I’ve had it up to my eyeballs with your antics. You can’t separate me from Callie. You’ve no right, and you know it. ”

  Oh, he had every right, and he intended to exercise each of them to the fullest extent. He might not be her father, her husband, or her Dom, but he was her protector. And probably the only person in her life she could trust without question.

  But Sean’s grating lecture gave him an idea. “I’ve been doing some thinking. I know that I’ve overstepped my bounds as the owner of the club. So I’m going to allow you to see her tomorrow. Here at Dominion. Nine p. m. You’re not going to get another offer. I suggest you take it. ”

  “I’ll be there. And don’t you be trying any trickery. You won’t like what happens. ”

  “Is that a threat?” Thorpe all but licked his lips, hoping the Scot would give him something he could sink his teeth into.

  “No. But if you’re less than straight and narrow, I don’t think Callie will be too happy with you. And you can’t stand the thought that she might not look to you for all her needs, can you?”

  Thorpe squeezed the phone tightly. Fucker. “Be here at nine. ”

  Without allowing Sean to respond, he ended the call. That Scot got under his skin, and he had to resist the urge to throw Callie’s phone across the room. Instead, he forced out a deep breath, then stood, walking with deliberate steps back to her room and put the phone where he’d found it.

  He shouldn’t look at the girl, but she’d rolled over in her sleep and now lay on her back, her ridiculously long lashes caressing her cheeks, her head angled slightly to expose the graceful line of her throat. Pale shoulders moved softly with each breath. The quilt barely covered her breasts, and the hint of cleavage was enough to make him sweat.

  Damn it, he had to get out of here. He had to stop obsessing. Keep her safe. Give her a place to live her life in peace. That was the most he could ever offer her.

  The moment he closed her door behind him again and locked it once more, he charged down the hall to see if Axel had left yet. A quick turn of the knob to the security room, and Thorpe slid inside. Axel wore a baseball cap. The man was a large, blunt instrument of violence when he chose. Currently, his eyes were glued to a security feed. His fists were clenched.

  “What is it?”

  “Callie got a pizza tonight. ”

  “I saw the box in her room. ”

  “She didn’t pay for it. ”

  Thorpe frowned. “And Callie doesn’t have any credit cards to have paid for it in advance. ”

  “Exactly. ”

  “It’s Kirkpatrick. ” Thorpe cursed. God, would this fucker just not go away?

  “Can’t imagine who else it would be. ”

  “I’ve got a plan. How do you feel about searching his apartment at, say, nine tomorrow night?”

  “For what?”

  “Anything. Everything. He’s up to no good where Callie is concerned. I want to know what. ”

  Axel’s massive shoulders slumped. “You’re not going to let me trash his pad, are you?”

  “Not yet, but depending on what you find, you and I together may be trashing his face. ”

  “Now you’re talking. ” Axel smiled wide.

  “Is that a yes, then?”

  Axel’s expression brightened again. “I can’t wait. ”

  Thorpe felt the same. One way or another, by tomorrow night, he’d have figured out exactly who Sean Kirkpatrick was and how to permanently erase him from Callie’s life. He didn’t care much how he had to do it.

  Chapter Six

  THORPE did his best to act like he didn’t want to murder Sean Kirkpatrick—or whatever his name truly was—when the imposter walked into Dominion. The man shoved somet
hing in the pocket of his trousers and adjusted his stark white dress shirt. Decent suit and loafers, but not designer. His watch wasn’t Gucci . . . but it wasn’t Timex, either. Which reinforced Thorpe’s opinion that this man wasn’t after Callie’s money because he knew she didn’t have any.

  He hoped like hell the address Tara had dug up was real and that Axel worked quickly. Thorpe needed to eliminate the man, then find the strength to take a step back from Callie so her life could resume its status quo.

  Sean caught sight of him in the foyer, standing beside Sweet Pea’s empty desk. He’d sent his little receptionist on a meaningless errand because didn’t want her anywhere near potential danger.

  The Scot glared. “Where is Callie? You said she’d be here. ”

  “In her room, waiting for you. But you and I are going to get a few rules straight first. ”

  “More bloody rules? I’m done playing by yours, Thorpe. You’re determined to believe the worst of my intentions because you’ve got your dick in a twist with jealousy, and she shed a few tears last night. If you truly care about the girl, you’ll back away and let me make her happy. She looks up to you. For her sake, you and I need to stop this arguing. ”

  The whole speech set Thorpe’s teeth on edge, but the name of tonight’s game was to lie low, not do anything to rouse the bastard’s suspicion. So he just smiled.

  “I’d rather not fight with you, either. It distresses Callie, but I won’t be less than honest. I don’t like you. However, if you fulfill her and have her best interest at heart, I’m willing to try accepting you. Therefore, I’m allowing you to have time alone with her in her room. I won’t interrupt. ”

  “Behind closed doors?”

  Thorpe dug his fingers into his thighs so he didn’t throttle Sean and nodded. “Don’t make me regret my show of trust. ”

  “Thank you. I came tonight intending to suggest a truce in Callie’s honor, so I’m glad you agree. She’s a stunning, bighearted lass. If you’ll let her make her own choices and keep your distance, I’ll give her all she needs. You’ve got my word on that. ” Sean held out his hand.

  “I look forward to seeing her smile again. ” Thorpe was loath to shake Sean’s hand, but he had no choice.

  If not for the information Tara had dug up on Kirkpatrick, Thorpe was sorely aware that he might really have been willing to take the lying asswipe at face value and try to behave civilly—at least when Callie was around.

  But now, that option was off the table.

  An awkward silence fell between them. Thorpe ignored it, turning his back on the man and drawing him down the private hall. With a series of card keys and pass codes, he finally reached the residential section of the club and headed to the end of the hall.

  He gestured to Callie’s door. “She’s waiting for you. ”

  And Sean was in for a treat. Callie wore a bloodred dress that showed a healthy hint of cleavage, accentuated her small waist and petite stature, while revealing a lot of thigh. Matching lipstick and dark curls offset her fair face. When he’d seen her ten minutes ago, all Thorpe had wanted to do was strap her to his bed until she screamed out in pleasure for him—until he’d realized she was wearing that asshole’s collar again. When he’d questioned her about it, she’d been vague. Had she changed her mind about leaving?

  Kirkpatrick knocked on her door. “Lovely?”

  The second Callie pulled it open, Thorpe’s stare tangled in hers. He saw something in her eyes that set him on edge. Sadness? Before Thorpe could decipher her expression, she peeked over at the other man.

  “Hi, Sean,” Callie murmured, lowering her gaze in a sweetly submissive gesture that made his cock stand tall. “Would you like to come in?”

  “I would. ” The Scot stepped inside and closed the door behind them.

  Thorpe heard it lock. He wanted to rip the fucker’s guts out.

  Instead, he leaned against the wall in the hallway and dragged in a breath, trying to calm his rage. Hopefully, in two hours or less, this shit would be over and this imposter would be gone for good. Then he could figure out what was troubling the girl and fix it.

  The only reason he’d let Sean in Callie’s room was the knowledge that he could unlock her door himself in seconds. If needed, Axel’s musclemen could bust it down in two minutes flat. Her windows had bars on the outside to keep creeps out . . . or in. Zeb and Lance were stationed at either end of the hall, listening and watching, just in case. The whole plan was a giant calculated risk. Yes, he was assuming that Sean wouldn’t hurt Callie, since the prick had already had months if that’s what he wanted. Why would he do it now, when he was cornered with no escape route? Nor could he sneak her out with him past all these watchful eyes. She’d be safe; he had to believe that.

  Before Thorpe gave in to the urge to punch the wall, he whirled on his heel and marched down the hall, texting Axel. Work fast.

 

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