Theirs to cherish, p.19
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       Theirs to Cherish, p.19

         Part #8 of Wicked Lovers series by Shayla Black
Page 19


  “Wouldn’t your superiors frown on you for getting involved with a ‘person of interest’?” Thorpe asked. It was a weak argument, but the best he had.

  The truth was, if Callie loved and trusted a man, she would always stand beside him. Funny how clearly Thorpe could see that if he’d acknowledged the feelings they shared and proven that she could trust him with her identity, Callie would still be at Dominion. She would never have run off before talking through the issues or intentionally leave him broken.

  He might be too jaded to give Callie the devotion she deserved, but that didn’t make Mackenzie good for her, either. He was just another brand of wrong, as far as Thorpe could tell.

  “I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it, but I won’t let anything happen to her,” the fed vowed, sending him a challenging stare. “I’ve answered your question. You answer mine. ”

  “All right. I figured out who she was a couple of years back. Ultimately, it’s her eyes. ”

  Sean nodded. “They’re so blue, you can’t miss them. It’s one reason she’s worn colored contacts more often than not for years. So why did you let her stay once you realized who she was?”

  “You think I should have tossed her out when she needed someone to protect her? Fuck, no. ”

  “In your shoes, I would have made the same choice. It’s good that she’s got someone else in her corner,” he admitted. “How long have you been in love with her?”

  Thorpe tried hard not to grit his teeth. “Can we skip this chat?”

  “You started it,” Sean reminded.

  “And you turned it around to interrogate me quickly enough. ”

  Sean sat back with a grin. “Occupational hazard. ”

  Thorpe grunted, but he felt a ghost of a smile bend his lips. He didn’t like Mackenzie, exactly, but now that the guy wasn’t pretending to be someone else, he didn’t hate the fed quite so much. “What does Callie’s file say about her that I don’t know?”

  “Classified. ”

  “We’re back to this game? All right, when you want to ask me something about the woman today, you’ll be barking up the wrong tree. ”

  Sean sighed. “This mission would have been so much easier without you. ”

  “Callie would still be at Dominion if it wasn’t for you. ”

  Exasperation crossed his face. “Look, I’m not authorized to tell you anything outright . . . but I can’t stop you from guessing. As soon as you tell me how long you’ve been in love with her. ”

  Thorpe sent Mackenzie a speculative glance. He’d guessed that Sean wasn’t above bending the rules, but found having that confirmed helpful. And even if he was no good for Callie, Thorpe ached to fill in some of the gaps in his knowledge about the girl. “Easily over three years. ” Not that it’s ever going to matter. “Happy?”

  “That’s a long time to have a stiff dick, old man. ”

  That jibe hit a bit too close to home. “Fuck off. ”

  “Hey, it’s good for me. Your loss is my gain. ”

  “It’s not over yet,” Thorpe threatened, sadly aware that it most likely was.

  Sean shrugged. “Only Callie can settle this argument. In the meantime, you want to know something in her file or not. ”

  Prick. “Yeah. I’ve often wondered how Callie supported herself in other cities before she came to me. Your file say anything about that?”

  “Yes. She’s fallen back on the same occupation several times in several cities. Always with different names, of course. Any guesses?”

  “Besides waitressing?”

  “She’s done that more than once, so I’ll give you a point for that answer. But I’m thinking of something else. ”

  “You’re enjoying holding this over my head,” Thorpe accused.

  “Yep. ” With a grin, Sean shrugged. “Sue me. ”

  Rolling his eyes, Thorpe focused on the empty road and the sign that told him it was forty miles to the nearest town. “Callie’s great at a lot of things. She speaks fluent French, but there’s not a big calling for that here. ”

  “Nope. ”

  “She’s an organizational dynamo, and I’m sure she could do that professionally, but opening her own business would put down too many roots for her, so I’ll bet that’s not it, either. ”

  “I’ve searched Callie’s room more than once,” Sean admitted. “She’s extremely organized. ”

  “She made my sty of an office the neatest it’s ever been. She has a good head for math, too. ”

  “According to her grades, she was good in most of her classes. ”

  Thorpe smiled. “Except science, I’ll bet. I enjoy some of the shows on the Science Channel, and she occasionally curls up with me during off-hours to watch. She seems lost half the time. ”

  That made Mackenzie laugh. “I can picture that. Ever seen the program narrated by Morgan Freeman? I like that one. ”

  “Through the Wormhole? Me, too. ” Thorpe turned a stare on him, shocked that they agreed on anything. In fact, they were almost getting along.

  Sean cleared his throat. “Keep guessing. Another way Callie made ends meet?”

  Yeah, moving on . . . Thorpe was uncomfortable with the concept of the two of them being chummy. “She’s a disaster in the kitchen. Cereal might be too tough for her, so I’m guessing she didn’t cook as a kid. And how would she have learned? I’m sure her father employed a full staff, nannies—chefs, gardeners, a personal valet—the works. ”

  “According to her files, yes,” Sean confirmed.

  Which made one of his most precious memories of Callie all the sweeter. Thorpe smiled. “She knows how much I like Italian cream cake and tried to make it, along with a lovely dinner for my last birthday. The meal was horrific, and we both laughed. But the cake was actually pretty good. ”

  His words seemed to hit Sean between the eyes like a bullet. The fact that she’d tried so hard to please Thorpe clearly left him feeling out in the cold. Oddly, Thorpe understood. Every time he’d see her dress up for Sean or kneel for the fucker, it felt like a two-by-four to his gut.

  “Since she never made any money cooking, I suspect Callie could earn her living either singing or dancing. She’s exceptional at both. ”

  “Wow, you do know her. ” Sean looked somewhere between awed and annoyed. “Singing. That’s how she paid her bills more than once. In fact, during her brief stint in Nashville, an executive for a major label saw her at a bar and offered her a record deal. She made an appointment to visit his office the next day. ”

  “And never showed?” Thorpe guessed.

  “Exactly. She skipped town overnight. I didn’t know she could dance. Her files indicate that she had dance classes, but so did my cousins. That didn’t help them. ” Sean snorted.

  Thorpe laughed and found himself relaxing a bit. “The last time I saw her dance was just before you came. I hosted a charity auction for wounded soldiers and their families back in March. Slave-for-a-day kind of thing. She danced onstage and worked up enthusiasm for the crowd. ”

  “Callie has great legs, so I’m not surprised it worked. ”

  “Who bought her?”

  “I did. ” Thorpe had been unable to watch anyone else touch her, so he’d given her the night off if she promised to spend it alone in her room. He’d spent it with someone else . . . thinking of her.

  Sean’s smile faded. “I don’t like the thought that I may never see her dance. ”

  “I don’t like thinking that I’ll never hear about Callie’s childhood from her. The few times I tried to probe about her past—before I knew who she was, of course—she was either closemouthed or sarcastic. ”

  Sean shot him a speculative look. “I’m surprised you didn’t beat her ass for it. ”

  “I was tempted. ”

  The fed grunted. “So, Callie was twenty-one when she came to Dominion? What was she like?”

  “She had a chip on her shoulder that warned everyone away for months. The girl on
ly spoke to me because she had to. I’ll never forget . . . I found her crying on the back patio after she’d been there a few weeks. Callie judiciously avoided anything remotely personal with everyone. But those tears . . . ” Thorpe shook his head. “I watched her for a few minutes, then I couldn’t stand it. I tried to help. ”

  “She rebuffed you. ”

  “Instantly,” Thorpe confirmed. “If I wanted to talk about BDSM or work, she was all ears. The second I asked anything personal, she clammed up. ”

  “When did she finally let you close?”

  “I found the first chink in her armor at Christmas. God, Callie loves it. Decorates everything in sight. I praised her wildly, and she started softening. ”

  “I didn’t see anything in her file about that. ”

  Thorpe shrugged. “I only have sketchy details about a sliver of her time before she came to Dominion, but it was obvious to me that Callie enjoys Christmas because it’s a holiday for family. ”

  “I’m guessing that since she doesn’t have any, she adopted everyone at the club as her own. ” Sean closed his eyes. “See, this is why I could never picture her as a hardened criminal. Even if she planned to run off with that Holden prick, Callie wanted a sense of belonging. A woman like that would never kill her loved ones. ”

  “Precisely. I was shocked that first holiday season with Callie. She fancied the place up, organized a party, made everything run like a well-oiled machine . . . then stood in the corner and watched like a little girl with her nose pressed to the glass. ”

  Frowning, Sean shook his head. “Then she has come a long way. Callie teases most everyone at Dominion now. I guess I have you to thank for the change. I hate to admit it, but you’ve taken good care of her. ”

  With the sun glaring through the back window, Thorpe flipped his wrist up to stare at his watch, uncomfortable with the man’s praise. How much more could he have healed Callie if he was capable of actually fucking trying?

  “How long does it take to fly from New Orleans to Vegas?” Thorpe spit out. “Three hours? Four? Shouldn’t she be there by now?”

  “I’d ask the bureau to track the flight, but . . . ” He looked vaguely uneasy.

  The truth hit Thorpe. “You’re doing this under the radar, aren’t you?”

  “I’ve said enough. ”

  “Look, we’re not best pals, but we both have a vested interest in finding Callie. We’ve got hours of driving ahead of us and we’re in this shit together. So you better be honest with me or I’ll leave you on the side of this damn road and find her without you. ”

  Spreading his knees and staring out the window, Sean sighed. “As my grandfather would have said, some of the higher-ups are a dodgy lot. They’ve always acted a bit evasive about this case, but over the past few weeks, something’s changed. I can’t put my finger on it. I just have this gut feeling that if I gave them any indication Callie has fled, it would open up a can of worms I might not be able to close. I think they’d start a full-fledged manhunt. They might even insist that I arrest her. I can’t do that. ”

  And if Sean couldn’t arrest her, Thorpe didn’t think he’d turn her in, even for a two-million-dollar bounty. He might be wrong . . . but he didn’t think so.

  “Shit!” Thorpe didn’t like the sound of that at all. “Can you lean on them, find out anything?”

  “I’ve tried. Often, agents are at the bottom of the information totem pole. Politics are always on a need-to-know basis, and they think I don’t need to know. ”

  “Are you fucking with me?”

  “Right now, I don’t have the energy. I just want Callie back, a decent meal, and a good night’s sleep—in that order. ”

  Thorpe wanted that, too, along with a passionate, grinding slide into Callie’s undoubtedly tight pussy so he could hear her cry out in his ear while she dug her little nails into his back, just as she’d done to Sean. He didn’t like another man fucking her, but he liked the fact that he’d never had the pleasure of feeling her himself even less.

  Listen to him whine . . . He wasn’t in her best interest. Whatever Mackenzie’s flaws or agenda, the fed loved her—enough to risk his job for her. Thorpe couldn’t fault Sean for that.

  “So, about the ex-wife, Melissa . . . ” Mackenzie began.

  Thorpe choked, then took a swig of cold coffee to recover. “Nothing to say about her. ”

  “She left, so you’re bitter? Or gun shy?” Sean probed.

  “Where the fuck do you get off questioning me? We’re talking about Callie. ”

  “I’m trying to understand you. Your bad experience with the lousy ex is the reason you kept Callie at arm’s length all these years, right?”

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