Theirs to cherish, p.14
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       Theirs to Cherish, p.14
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         Part #8 of Wicked Lovers series by Shayla Black
Page 14

 

  As Thorpe passed Lance, he pocketed his phone and frowned. “Watch over the girl for me. ”

  Lance shot him a shrewd glance. “I’ll watch over your girl. Admit that’s what she is. ”

  He rubbed at his forehead where a bitch of a headache was forming. “Let’s focus on keeping her safe tonight and getting rid of the Scottish stallion. If we manage that, I’ll think about it. ”

  When hell froze over.

  “If you won’t make Callie yours, why not let her be happy with someone who adores her?” Lance challenged. “You might not like Sean Kirkpatrick, but he’s in love with that little vixen. ”

  “You don’t understand. ” Thorpe chafed, but the less he told the others about Callie and her secrets, the better.

  “That you won’t claim her, but don’t want anyone else to have her? Sure, I do. It’s a damn shame that you prefer her being alone and unhappy to pairing up. ”

  Why did the other Dom have to bring up the point that pinpricked Thorpe with the most guilt?

  “I don’t want her unhappy. ” Though he didn’t hate the idea of Callie being alone if he couldn’t have her. And yes, he knew that was selfish as hell. “But she deserves the best. ”

  Lance shrugged. “Not arguing that. Just not sure he’s any worse than you encouraging her adoration when you have no intention of claiming her. ” Thorpe opened his mouth to rebut, but the other man wagged a finger in his face. “Melissa, the ex-bitch, walked out on you, and it’s not an exercise you want to repeat. Got it. But use your fucking brain. If Callie stayed even after all the times you rebuffed her, I doubt she’s going to run out on you. ”

  Lance couldn’t be more wrong, but Thorpe didn’t dare say more. “You might be surprised. ”

  “Her heart is yours,” Lance insisted, scoffing.

  “Not exclusively. ”

  And that bitter pill made Thorpe choke.

  He’d had enough of this conversation. Forcing himself away, he tore into his office and tried to bury himself in paperwork. Nothing held his attention. Half-answered e-mails and discarded forms couldn’t make him forget that, right now, Callie would be pressed up against a man she didn’t really know. Sean might be ordering her to strip. She might be baring her body and soul for a stranger with sinister motives.

  Damn it! Logically, having Callie occupy the asshole to flush him out made sense. But Thorpe hated this plan. It was wearing his nerves awfully fucking thin, as was Lance’s confrontation.

  He stared at the clock, watching every drag of its hands. Thirty minutes took three days. Finally, his cell phone chimed. Yanking the device from his pocket, he saw Axel’s number on the display and stabbed the button to answer. “Talk to me. ”

  “I’m in. It’s his place, all right. I had to turn the place upside down to find anything, but . . . ” Axel paused. “You better be sitting. I’ve got bad news, boss. Really fucking bad. ”

  ***

  CALLIE trembled as Sean approached. “I’m glad you came. ”

  “Though Thorpe all but summoned me, I wasn’t going to say no, lovely. Any opportunity to see you is one I’ll take. ”

  She lifted the corners of her lips and hoped it looked like a smile. Knowing these were the last moments she’d have with Sean, that she’d already laid eyes on Thorpe for the final time, that tomorrow she’d be in another city and never see Dallas or the people who’d become her family again . . . Callie sniffled. She couldn’t afford these tears and her maudlin whinefest had to stop.

  “Are you all right?” Sean asked, curling a solicitous hand around her elbow.

  “I’m fine. Just allergies. ” She forced herself to smile brighter, but it didn’t seem to be working. The concern in Sean’s frown deepened.

  If he looked at her too hard, he would see that something troubled her. She didn’t want her last memories of him to be of anger or rebuke as he futilely tried to pry the reasons for her mood from her. She had a plan; she needed to stick to it. Everything was ready, including the spare key to her car since Thorpe had never given back the ones he’d swiped from her purse. The emergency pack she’d left Chicago with all those years ago, along with a few other things to aid her disguise, was stowed in the trunk of her car. The money she’d scraped together over the years was inside as well. She’d take nothing else with her, not even her phone, filled with pictures of everything and everyone she loved. As much as she wanted to, there was no way she could risk carrying around the memories.

  Shortly after Thorpe had the burglar bars installed over the club’s windows, she’d loosened them just enough to wiggle through . . . in case she ever needed to leave. Earlier today, she’d tested them. She could twist through, but just barely. So even if she could take her memories with her, they would simply have to stay behind.

  Besides, a clean break was always better. She’d been through this enough to know.

  Callie turned to the glasses of wine she’d procured earlier from Dominion’s bar and handed him the one she’d doctored in advance with two Ambien. They wouldn’t hurt him, but they should knock him out and give her time to slip away. She should be at least an hour or more down the road before Thorpe discovered she was gone.

  Ditching her little sedan and buying another would be her first priority. It sucked that tomorrow was Sunday. Most car dealerships in Texas were closed. She’d have to find a used lot somewhere and hope for the best. But that was later. She wanted to enjoy her last minutes with Sean. The yawning chasm of all her empty tomorrows stretched out in front of her, and she’d have to face it soon enough.

  Handing his glass of wine to him, she grabbed her own.

  He raised his. “A toast, lovely. To new beginnings. ”

  She tried not to cry at that irony. “To new beginnings. ”

  Hers would simply be far, far away.

  Sean caressed her with more than kindness. Devotion and hunger lay in his smile, and she let herself bask in his gaze for a few precious seconds. If she’d been a normal girl with a normal past, she would give her heart to this man and be so grateful to have him in her life. As it was, she’d probably die alone in some big city she wasn’t familiar with. Whoever found her body would never know that she was Callindra Howe. They’d never really know the woman underneath whatever fake name she’d assumed. She’d be given a pauper’s burial. No one would come to her funeral because no one would care.

  Gawd, she’d gotten good at depressing herself. None of that mattered. Pick up. Move on. Don’t cry.

  “Bottoms up. ” She clinked their glasses together and took a sip, watching as Sean swallowed some of the red wine.

  “That’s a mite dry, just how I like it. ”

  Great news. Hers was super sweet, but the drugs had a bitter aftertaste, and she’d known that crushing two pills into the liquid would alter the vino’s flavor.

  “I want to toast new beginnings because on my way in, Thorpe and I reached a bit of a truce,” he explained.

  “That’s great!”

  If they weren’t at one another’s throats once she’d fled, then maybe no one would be going to prison for murder. Thorpe would discover her gone, and it should be obvious that Sean had not helped her escape. He might be angry that Sean had been unable to stop her, but no way Thorpe could blame him. They might each look for her for a time. Separately, of course. They didn’t like one another well enough to do that together. But eventually, they’d give up. Their lives would move on. Hers would be forever marked by a few distinct events: her mother’s death shortly after she’d turned six, her family’s murder ten years later, and the day she’d left the two wonderful men she loved.

  “It’s a start, anyway. ” Sean shrugged. “I can’t say that I like the fact that you work for him and live under his roof. I know you have feelings for him, just like I know he wants you between his sheets. ” He looked at her so intently. “I love you, Callie. You say you have feelings for me, too. But for us to work, you’ve got to choose. ”
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  Oh, she’d chosen. Now she just had to muster up the will to go through with her plan. And never lose her resolve about not looking back.

  “I know. I’ve been giving this a lot of thought. ” Callie downed her wine for some liquid courage, hoping it would encourage Sean to do the same.

  “And?” he asked, then took another healthy swig of wine before setting his stem on the dresser and focusing on her.

  No! He needed to drink more—all of it. But when he grabbed her shoulders and tugged her closer, she knew that wine was the last thing on his mind. Now, she could only pray that he’d imbibed enough of the drug.

  Callie set her own glass beside his, then looked up into his strong, familiar face, doing her best to remember every detail. Soon, she’d have nothing left of him or Thorpe but memories.

  “I love you, too,” she whispered.

  That was the last truth she could ever give him. Now she had to release him.

  Falling apart inside, she threw herself against Sean’s broad chest, feeling the stalwart beat of his heart, and pressed her lips to his.

  Sean ate at her mouth for a moment, his tongue ravenous, his lips possessive. Then he pulled back, panting and staring, seeming to pierce her soul. “I feel like I’ve waited half my life to hear you say that. Come away with me. ”

  His soft demand shocked the hell out of her. “What?”

  “I mean it. We’ve never even seen one another outside this club. ”

  “I live here. ”

  “We’ll find a new place, room enough for two. ”

  She gaped at him. “I-I work here. ”

  “You don’t need this job, lovely. I’ll support you. ”

  Dumbfounded, she stared mutely. He cared for her that much? It broke her heart to shake her head.

  “Callie, hear me out. We can’t truly grow together if Thorpe is always in our way. We need time alone, just the two of us. ”

  “I . . . ” The offer was tempting, in a way. Maybe she could start over with Sean. Maybe he would agree to move somewhere else and . . . Harbor a woman wanted for murder? Hide her when his whole life would come crashing down for it? He already asked too many questions. Sean wasn’t dumb; it wouldn’t take him much longer to figure her out. “I can’t. ”

  Just like she couldn’t stand to break his heart now. If his feelings were genuine, he would hurt enough once he woke to find her gone.

  Frustration flashed across his face. He clenched his fists. “Don’t you understand? As long as he’s dictating the terms, we can’t really be together. We can’t grow. ”

  If she wasn’t running for her life or also in love with the man Sean was trying to wrest her from, she might agree. She didn’t have that luxury now. “I’ll think about it. I just need time. This is really sudden. ”

  He sighed. “All right. I’ve been pondering it for weeks now and I’m ready to have you all to myself, but . . . I’ll try to be patient. ”

  “Thank you. ” She batted her lashes at him. That was false, but she caressed her way up his shoulder and wrapped her fingers around his nape. Under her hands, he felt so very real.

  “You’re mine, you know,” he declared, his tone strong and gruff and insistent. “I won’t give up. ”

  It shouldn’t, but his declaration made her heart flutter.

  “Fuck, I can’t stand it. I’ve got to have you, lovely. Mark you as mine somehow. Strip for me. ”

  Callie tried not to lose her cool. If she gave more of herself to Sean now, the hurt would only be deeper later. Already, she felt so damn close to crumbling that she could barely hold herself together. But she couldn’t deny that she wanted to touch him one last time.

  If she couldn’t give him the truth, then she could give him a part of herself. Besides, she had to distract him—fast.

  Pulling off her dress, she laid it across the bed. Her champagne lace lingerie followed, and the low moan that came from Sean’s throat echoed with appreciation. She kicked her shoes off next and rolled down her stockings, teasing him with every movement. Callie stared at him over her shoulder, gently wiggling her hips.

  “You’re a right heady siren. ” He palmed her hip. “Every time I’m near you, I forget everything I should be doing. I can only think about making you mine. ”

  Callie knew exactly what he meant because he often derailed her better intentions.

  Sending a shaky smile his way, she forced herself to stay on track. So she pressed one last kiss to his lips, then sank gracefully to her knees.

  “What’s this?” he asked, looking down at her, his eyes heating.

  Her stare rocketed up his thighs and lingered at the healthy bulge behind his zipper. She bit her lip, then forced herself to stare straight into his eyes. “Let me serve you. ”

  Sean sucked in a harsh breath. “Callie . . . ”

 
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