Theirs to cherish, p.16
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       Theirs to Cherish, p.16
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         Part #8 of Wicked Lovers series by Shayla Black
Page 16

 

  Axel looked almost hurt. “The idea of Callie shooting anyone, much less her own family, especially for money, is preposterous. I’d never stab either of you in the back for a buck. ”

  “I hope you’re not fucking with me. I’d hate to have to end you and dispose of your corpse at the bottom of a lake in the middle of nowhere. ”

  Axel snorted. “I won’t give you a reason to plot my murder. Is that what you have in mind for his fate?”

  Thorpe followed the other man’s stare down to Sean, still all but passed out. “I’m considering my options, but I’m not ruling anything out. ”

  “If you don’t do something with him, he’s going to blab. ”

  “True. And I’ve got to remove him from Callie’s path for good. She needs to know that she’s safe, no matter where we go. ”

  “You’re in love with her?”

  He figured that Axel was about the only one who hadn’t guessed before now. “I’m surprised Lance didn’t let you in on that. He’s apparently amused. And Xander just feels sorry for me. ”

  Being in Callie’s room when it felt so utterly devoid of the woman herself was killing him. Her touch was here and her scent lingered. Thorpe paced, but pain seeped into his chest. Every moment felt like torture, and it was fucking hard just to breathe. How would he close his eyes and sleep without knowing where she’d gone? How would he be able to face tomorrow without any idea if she was safe?

  “There’s nothing funny about love when it goes to shit. ” Axel sighed heavily.

  Thorpe knew the guy had a story, but he had to focus on Callie now. “Will you help me or not?”

  “Absolutely. You’ve squeezed me out of more binds than I can count. If you need me, I’m solid. Just give me a few days to get all the paperwork in order. Focus on finding her. ”

  “Yeah. Question is, where do we start?”

  “Well, it’s not like we can file a missing person’s report . . . ”

  “No. And someone else was the last to see her before she bolted,” Thorpe pointed out.

  They both looked down at Sean.

  “I’ll make coffee. Good luck waking Sleeping Beauty,” Axel drawled.

  With a nod, Thorpe sat on the edge of the bed. “While you’re at it, check in with your guys again . . . just in case they have anything new. ”

  “On it. ” Axel sauntered to the door, then paused. “I won’t give up, either. We’ll do everything we can. ”

  It wouldn’t be easy. Callie had vanished into thin air many times over the years. She’d learned how to evade law enforcement, how to disguise herself well, how to connect herself with people who weren’t all that friendly with the authorities.

  But she didn’t know how to escape a man willing to fight dirty and give anything to have her back. She’d soon learn that he’d never give up.

  With a sour curl to his lips, he gave Sean a hearty shove. The man grunted, smacked his tongue in his mouth, then rolled away and resumed snoring.

  Thorpe eyed him with annoyance. This shit had been going on entirely too long. He should have listened to his gut as soon as Kirkpatrick walked in the club and threw the bastard out.

  Sighing, he dragged Sean to the edge of the bed and slung the man over his shoulder, fireman style. The fucker groaned and jerked, half awake and flailing.

  Trudging to Callie’s small bathroom, Thorpe heaved the man into her empty tub. Sean’s head hit the porcelain with a little thump.

  “That’s going to leave a mark. ” Axel stood in the doorway with a considering stare.

  “Oops. ” Thorpe smiled tightly and reached for the faucet. “Aren’t you supposed to be busy?”

  “Already done. I rushed back. This is more entertaining. ” With a bark of laughter, Axel considered Sean again. “If you’re going to splash cold water on him, be careful. I was a medic in the military. He could go into shock. I’ve seen it happen once after a few idiots drank too much tequila on leave, then tried to wake one another up. ”

  “Well, I only need this one alive for about two minutes. Then . . . ” Thorpe shrugged.

  “You have a really ruthless side, boss. ” Axel smiled. “I like it. ”

  “I try. ” Thorpe flipped the faucet on in Callie’s shower, blasting ridiculously cold water all over Sean, soaking his skin.

  He came up sputtering, wiping water from his eyes and glaring. “What the fuck! Are you out of your mind?”

  Well, well. Isn’t that interesting? No Scottish accent . . . The leopard was finally showing his true spots.

  “Not at all,” Thorpe growled, then grabbed the back of Sean’s head by his wet hair.

  “Get your bloody hands off me. ”

  And the accent is back. Thorpe rolled his eyes.

  “Drop the act. I know you’re not Scottish. And I know you’re not a traveling businessman. ”

  Sean reared back. “I’ve no idea what you’re talkin’ about. I’m from Edinburgh. I moved to Florida a few years back—”

  “Shut the fuck up. ”

  “I’d do what he says, if I were you,” Axel suggested. “He’s in a really bad mood. ”

  Sean’s blue stare zipped around the room. “Where’s Callie?”

  “Well, that’s what I want to ask you since you were the last person to see her before she fled. ”

  ***

  WITH a ripe curse, Sean jerked away from Thorpe’s brutal hold and stood, turning off the freezing shower. He shook off the excess water like a dog, snickering when Thorpe and Axel both protested. Then they just looked angrier.

  Well, fuck. Two against one, and I’m buck naked. The odds weren’t good. How did Thorpe know he wasn’t a Scottish businessman? And what else did he know?

  Later. His sluggish brain was just now processing what Thorpe had declared.

  His heart froze, then began pounding like a damn jackhammer.

  “Fled?” He added the lilt, refusing to break cover, even if panic grated his insides. “How did you let her slip past you?”

  Thorpe rolled his eyes. “I’ll explain the meaning of ‘the jig is up’ when Callie is back home safely. I’m asking how she slipped past you. After all, you were in the same room with her. ”

  Sean weighed his words carefully, trying to reconstruct the evening in his head, then he played the part of Kirkpatrick, as he had for months. “The lass must have drugged the wine she gave me. I don’t recall much. Then she . . . ”

  He let out a ragged breath. The part where Callie had swallowed down his cock and sucked him dry, all with such a sad look in her eyes, was crystal clear.

  “What?”

  “That’s between Callie and me, a private matter between a Master and his sub. ”

  Axel leaned out the door, then came back dangling Callie’s collar on one finger. “I don’t think she’s your sub anymore. She took this off before she shimmied out the window. ”

  The sight of Callie’s collar glinting in Axel’s hand staggered him like he’d fallen under the weight of a giant redwood. He stumbled back. Son of a bitch, he should have listened to his instinct and pushed Callie for answers. He’d known something was troubling her.

  Sean grabbed the collar from Axel and clutched it in his hand, then glared Thorpe’s way. “What did you do to her?”

  “Nothing I hate worse than a fake accent,” the club owner muttered to the security beefcake. “I admit it had me fooled for a long time, but now it just makes me grit my teeth. ” Finally, the man regarded him again. “What the fuck kind of question is that?”

  “The kind where you explain to me what you did to distress my wee lovely. She’s been upset since last night, when you saw us together in the dungeon. She seemed more than a mite on edge tonight. ”

  “Are you suggesting that I’m the one who ran her off?”

  “That I am. I’ve no idea what she likes about you, but she does by her own admission. You pushing your attentions on her last night confused the poor girl. ”

&nb
sp; “You blurting that you love her didn’t? Are you going to tell me her tears then were fake?”

  Axel stepped between them. “Guys, this isn’t helping us find Callie. ”

  True, and he had to keep it together. He’d invested nearly a year’s worth of work on her . . . and without meaning to, his heart.

  “I’m going to check in with the rest of the staff, question some of the members who were in the parking lot earlier, and make a few phone calls. Be-fucking-have, you two,” Axel demanded, then strode out the door, shaking his head.

  As the other man disappeared, Sean got back to the matter at hand. “Callie didn’t say a word to me about leaving. We drank some wine, talked a bit, then made our way to the bed. That’s the last thing I recall. ”

  “No idea if she figured out you’re a fed?”

  Sean’s blood ran cold. “A fed? You’re arse end up. I’m telling you—”

  “A birdie told me there are lots of files from the FBI about me and everyone else who frequents this club in your apartment. And of course every known fact about ‘wee’ Callie. ”

  Shit, Thorpe knew exactly who he was. And who she was, too. The good news was Thorpe was protective of the girl. The bad news was that might change now that he realized he’d been having feelings for and harboring a fugitive all this time.

  If Thorpe hurt her, Sean vowed to kill him.

  Hurdling the rim of the tub, he jumped in Thorpe’s face and, despite his nudity, shoved the annoying asshole against the wall. “I should have you fucking arrested. ”

  No sense in faking the accent now. Thorpe had crossed the line, invading a federal agent’s turf. But Sean knew he should kick his own ass, too. He should carry information in a more discreet way. He should use some high-tech way to lock it up. But he’d been raised by his grandparents. High tech wasn’t his thing. Certain in the belief that no one at Dominion had seen through his cover, he’d allowed himself to slack. And now he was going to pay.

  “Thank you,” Thorpe spit. “That accent was driving me mad. ”

  “It was my grandfather’s, and it’s spot on. I’ve tested it in Scotland, in his hometown. Fuck off. ” He stomped on the wet tile, sloshing around, before he grabbed Callie’s towel off the rack. It was still damp. And damn if it didn’t smell like her. Sean nearly went weak in the knees. He had to believe that he’d smell her skin again soon. She couldn’t be gone forever in an instant.

  “Will the real Sean step forward?” Thorpe drawled “Or is that even your name?”

  “I don’t have to answer that. ” Sean wrapped the towel around his waist, still clutching the delicate weight of her collar.

  “I think you do, unless you have no interest in finding Callie. ” Thorpe crossed his arms, and the seams of his coat struggled to contain the bulk of his shoulders. “Because I’m not going to tell you what I know until you do. ”

  He’d learned quickly from observation around the club that Mitchell Thorpe hid behind a veneer of civility, but under it all, he could be unflinchingly ruthless when something or someone he valued was threatened.

  “Special Agent Sean Mackenzie. I have every interest in finding Callie. She’s not just the subject of an investigation to me. ” He cleared his throat. “I love her. ”

  “Not sure I believe you. ” Thorpe paused. “And I’ve got about a million questions, but not until we have some idea where Callie has gone. ”

  “Fair enough. ”

  “Did she give you any indication where she might be headed?”

  “Like I said, she didn’t indicate that she was going at all. I suspected, but . . . Can we head back to the bedroom so I can have my clothes? Unless you like me naked or something?”

  “Fuck no. ” Thorpe moved out of the doorway.

  Sean ambled into Callie’s room, looking at the window with a frown. “She crawled out that window with the bars?”

  Thorpe nodded, seeming both vexed and oddly proud of Callie. “I took a flashlight and examined the area where she’d loosened the bars in one corner. It appears that she did it some time ago to make sure she had an escape route. ”

  “So she’s always had a plan, I suppose. ”

  “I think she always does. How else could she manage to elude you guys for so long?”

  Sean nodded and located his clothes in the mess Thorpe had made searching the room. Setting Callie’s collar on her nightstand, he swore he’d have it around her neck again, someday, somehow—for real. Then he slipped on his pants. “I’ve studied her patterns. From what I can tell, she came most recently from Oklahoma City. I don’t see her going back there. I’m sure you’ve looked at the security footage. Did she leave in her car?”

  Thorpe hesitated. “She did, but I don’t expect her to keep it long. ”

 
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