Theirs to cherish, p.17
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       Theirs to Cherish, p.17

         Part #8 of Wicked Lovers series by Shayla Black
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Page 17

 

  “Agreed. It’s a liability. She wouldn’t want to run the risk of us putting an APB out on her or being arrested by the first overzealous cop who runs her license plate. ”

  “No. ” The club owner didn’t add a single other word to the conversation. Obviously, he wasn’t going to lift a finger to help.

  “I wished I’d listened to my gut and put a GPS tracker on her car. ”

  “You don’t have any other way to track her?” When Sean shook his head, Thorpe sighed in frustration. “Are you fucking kidding me? You knew she was a flight risk. ”

  “I had devices in both her collar and her purse. She conveniently removed the first and left the second behind. If I was going to play the pointless blame game, I’d ask why you didn’t check the bars on her windows to make sure they were secure. After all, you knew she was a flight risk, too. ”

  “Fuck off. ”

  “We don’t have Axel to referee for us now. Are we going to narrow down where we might find Callie or just fight?”

  Thorpe clenched his fists, looking ready to spit nails. “We’re going to find her. ”

  “Good. I’ve got some theories. She wouldn’t head anywhere north or northeast with winter coming,” Sean mused aloud.

  “What makes you think that?”

  “Don’t treat me like I’m stupid. ” He bristled. “Callie dislikes the cold. And over the last nine years, we’ve tracked her through eight states. We’ve often missed her by days, sometimes even hours. ” Sean couldn’t help but admire her guts as he slipped on his shirt. “But she always chases the warmth. You know, we’ve been aware for some time that she was in Texas. We even suspected Dallas, but couldn’t pin her down. ”

  Thorpe swallowed thickly. “How did you find her?”

  “We got a hit on facial recognition software when you sent her to your bank to make a deposit at the end of January. It took a few weeks for the bureau to positively identify her, then another six weeks for me to watch this place, you, the others here, and her, so we could decide how to proceed. ”

  Thorpe closed his eyes, and Sean could guess that he was kicking his own ass. “I never imagined that a simple errand would put her at risk. ”

  “Don’t blame yourself. It could have just as easily been a traffic or sidewalk cam. ”

  But Thorpe’s face said that he absolutely felt responsible and that if he ever found Callie, he wouldn’t make that mistake again. Sean would bet every dime in his bank account that the man was already planning to secret her out of the country, someplace far warmer and south of the U. S. , out of the bureau’s reach.

  He regarded his nemesis, hoping like hell he wouldn’t have to detain or hurt Thorpe. It would just be a waste of time and the loss of a temporary ally.

  “So you don’t have any ideas where Callie might have gone?” Sean challenged, wanting to know if Thorpe was going to play nice. Obviously, the man had ideas. Time to see how much he’d be willing to share.

  “Not really. The only thing I’ve ever been able to count on with Callie was the unpredictable. Maybe Florida. If she wanted to get out of the country, doing it from the Keys would be easier. ”

  Sean pounded his fist on the wall beside Thorpe’s head. “Bullshit! The longer you play this stupid fucking game with me, the longer she has to get away. She won’t go to Florida because she thinks my home and business are there. ”

  “Well, damn. I guess I can’t accuse you of being stupid after all. ”

  Sean just snorted.

  “Are you based in Florida?” Thorpe sounded almost hopeful.

  “Right here in Dallas. ” He smiled acidly.

  “Well, hunky fucking dory. Isn’t it my lucky day?”

  “Hey, you don’t have to like me any better than I like you. But right now, we have to work together to find her. Every minute that ticks by—”

  “Is another minute she slips farther away. I know that, asshole. ” Thorpe gave an agitated huff and raked a hand through his hair.

  “Look, whether you believe me or not, my feelings for Callie are real. I have a very vested interest in making sure she doesn’t go to jail, especially for a crime there’s no way she committed. ”

  That set Thorpe on his ear. “You know she’s innocent?”

  “Of course. But is that really the important question?”

  “Why does the bureau want her? Murder isn’t really their jurisdiction. ”

  “Now you’re thinking. That’s something I’ve asked myself over and over. I don’t have an answer, and before you say a word, that’s not a load of crap. I don’t have the time or energy to lie to you, man. They keep giving me a line about identity fraud. ”

  “Callie wouldn’t steal anyone’s identity. ” Thorpe frowned.

  “But she’s created personas and gotten fake IDs, sometimes crossing state lines before shedding them and her car, then starting over. ”

  Thorpe looked at him as if he’d lost his mind. “And that’s cause for the bureau to send in an undercover agent for months?”

  “Exactly. None of this adds up for me, either. And they’re treating the case like it’s vital to national security. ”

  “What? That doesn’t make any fucking sense. ”

  “What makes even less sense is that my directive is just to keep tabs on her and search for anything she may have taken of her father’s. ”

  “Not to arrest her?” Thorpe looked tense, poised on a knife’s edge waiting for the answer.

  A part of Sean wanted to let the club owner squirm in discomfort, but they just didn’t have time. “At least for now. If they really believed she had violated laws, they’d want her behind bars pronto. Two and two isn’t adding up. Something’s rotten in Denmark. Use whatever cliché you like, but it’s messed up. And I’m going to do everything I can to protect her. ”

  “That makes two of us. ” Crossing his arms, Thorpe swallowed. “All right. She mentioned something about L. A. to me last night. ”

  Sean’s whole body tightened. “Does she know anyone there?”

  “Not anymore. Xander moved to Louisiana. And they aren’t close. ”

  With a shrug of his shoulders, Sean considered the suggestion. “It’s a possibility. They have fairly warm winters. It’s far from here. It’s a big city, so she can get lost. ”

  “That makes sense. ”

  Thorpe looked like that notion scared the hell out of him. It worried Sean, too. What if he couldn’t find her there? Or anywhere?

  “She’ll definitely head west. Where’s my damn phone?” Sean patted his pockets, then looked around the floor, then the bed. Finally, he spotted the device and nearly pounced on it. The second he tapped in his code, the picture that appeared made him swear a blue streak. “I know why Callie ran. Damn it, she fucking tricked me and figured out that I know who she is. ”

  He flashed Thorpe the picture of her teenage self, chipper smile, dark blond hair, and those same blue eyes he could drown in.

  Thorpe’s sibilant curse filled the air. “That would do it. ”

  “I scared her. ” Sean’s face filled with regret.

  “No doubt. If you think she’s going west, I’m going to find her. ”

  “You?” Sean shook his head. “This is my job. You need to stay here. ”

  “Not happening. I’m going with you to find Callie and make sure you don’t drag her away. ”

  “You’ve got to stay here and act like everything is normal. ”

  “How?” Thorpe demanded, looking at Sean as if he never had any mind to actually lose. “My world is upside down. Anyone who knows me knows damn well that I wouldn’t let that girl go without a fight. ”

  “Maybe, but you’re crazy if you think the bureau isn’t watching you, too. They don’t get eyes on Callie too often outside Dominion. But you . . . every time you’ve hopped on a commercial flight or even taken a taxi since we identified her has been tracked and noted, just in case you leaving is a sign that she’s darting with
you. ”

  “Someone inside the club snitched that we’re close?”

  Sean quickly assured him with a shake of his head. “Before I joined, I couldn’t get anyone to talk, but the bureau surmised it. She’s never stayed in one place for even half this long, so we had to assume that she was attached to someone here. You seemed like the most logical choice. The second I got in the door, I knew she’d remained here all these years for you. ”

  He didn’t tell Thorpe that he knew Callie had largely accepted his collar to see if Thorpe would care. If the bastard hadn’t figured out that she was in love with him, too, Sean didn’t feel the need to enlighten him. In his book, if Thorpe hadn’t claimed her by now, he’d missed his chance.

  “Here’s a thought,” Thorpe tossed out. “You stay here and look ‘normal. ’ I’ll borrow someone else’s car and head west, in case they’re looking for mine. I’ll find Callie. ”

  “Sure you will. While you’re working out some scheme in your head where you intend to clear the country with her, never to be seen again. I promise I won’t let that happen. I’ll throw obstruction, tampering, harboring a fugitive—whatever I can make stick—at you. I’ll also prosecute the hell out of Axel for breaking into my apartment and tampering with federal evidence. You’ll both go to jail. And before you tell me Axel had nothing to do with it, shut up and spare me the lie. ”

  “Then we’re at a crossroads. You want to find her. I want to find her. You give me the ‘two heads are better than one’ speech, then think you’re going to leave me here while you find Callie alone?” Thorpe shook his head. “At this point, I don’t give a fuck if you try to arrest me. I only care about bringing her back safe. I don’t doubt that she’s dodged some unscrupulous men in the past who have looked at her and seen nothing but that two-million-dollar bounty. ” Thorpe frowned at him. “If she’s not actually wanted for a crime, why the big price on her head?”

  “I don’t know. She doesn’t have any other family to put up money, so that’s another mystery that makes no sense to me. But if Uncle Sam is willing to pony up that much cash, she’s somehow valuable. Someone else knows that—and knows why. People far more dangerous than bounty hunters. ”

  Thorpe went absolutely still. “Whoever killed her family?”

  “That’s what I’m thinking. After all, they also shot her the night she escaped. If they wanted her dead then, why stop trying now?”

  “You’re right. Jesus . . . ”

  “According to the files I have access to, she’s eluded some well-paid assassins over the last nine years. Someone wants to silence her. I just wish I knew why. I’d love to hunt down these assholes so I can keep her safe. ”

  “We can’t stand here and fuck around. This is bigger than I imagined. ” Thorpe didn’t look like a man who ever begged, but he came pretty close now. “Two heads are better than one. You might know more about her background, but I know her. I know who she is now. I have a better idea where she’d go, what she’d do, and why. ”

  Sean paused and reluctantly nodded. “All right. But you can’t take her out of the country once we find her. ”

  “We’ll work that out later. Let’s find her first. ”

  Sean didn’t like it, but Thorpe had a valid point. “My rules, though. Leave your phone here. ”

  “What? No!” Thorpe looked at him like he’d lost his mind. “If she calls me—”

  “She won’t. She left her phone here with all her contact numbers. ”

  “Callie memorizes numbers. She knows how to call me. ”

  Sean shook his head. “The bureau is monitoring the location of your phone. Leave it here. ”

  “Damn it! How?”

  “Trade secret. Get a burner phone and tell Axel how to find you in case Callie calls you or returns. We need a car, not yours or mine. ”

  “Axel will be happy to drive my Jag while I’m gone,” Thorpe drawled.

  “Perfect. ” Sean clapped him on the shoulder. “Let’s go. We both need to grab as much cash as we can. Once we do, we’ll get on the road. Hopefully, we can be out of Dallas before dawn. ”

  “And what, just head west?”

  With a nod, Sean’s face turned grim. “We’ll hope for a break in the information as we’re traveling. ”

  After a quick chat with Axel, they exchanged keys, and his head of security was grinning from ear to ear, promising to take care of the business and car, as Thorpe made his way to his office. Just as he set his phone in a drawer of his desk to lock it up, it chimed with a text. Sean glanced at the screen. Logan Edgington. 911.

 

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