Theirs to cherish, p.20
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       Theirs to Cherish, p.20
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         Part #8 of Wicked Lovers series by Shayla Black
Page 20

 

  No, but he wasn’t spilling all his demons for Sean. “There’s a significant age gap, too. ”

  “Which is more your hang-up than hers, I’d bet. What else?”

  Thorpe glanced at his crappy burner phone, wondering where Logan’s call was that Callie had reached Vegas all right. If Logan didn’t call in five, he’d ring the former SEAL. But whatever he did, he wasn’t replying to Sean.

  “So it’s mostly your own fear. ” The fed supplied his own answer. “I guess that makes sense in a chicken shit sort of way. But one thing has me stumped. Why decide to get possessive after I entered the picture? You’re off relationships because of the ex, so you tell yourself that you don’t want Callie. But you don’t want anyone else to have her, either. You’ve got your head up your ass, Thorpe. It’s not fair to her. ”

  Sean’s words echoed Lance’s and rang a little too true. Damn it if he didn’t want to punch the man. “None of this is any of your fucking business. ”

  “It is if you want to know anything else in Callie’s file. ” Sean gave him an expectant smile.

  Thorpe rubbed his broad forehead, wishing he could massage away the beginnings of his headache. He really wanted to toss Mackenzie from the vehicle, but that wasn’t in Callie’s best interest. She had to be priority number one. “At first, she’d barely talk to me. After she’d been at Dominion a few months, I used her for a teaching demo. Of course I was attracted to her from the beginning, but Callie was a pure novice. I didn’t know if she was truly submissive or was pretending because she needed a job. I found out quickly that she was. Our chemistry was . . . not like anything I’d ever experienced. It shocked me. ”

  “So you backed away?”

  “No. I should have, but Callie was far more submissive than I’d dared to hope, not to mention addicting. It wasn’t long before I used her for every demo. It was the only excuse I would give myself to touch her. She still kept her distance more often than not, but damn, the way she responded to me . . . I was very seriously considering breaking my own rule about never taking an exclusive sub.

  “Then I was watching some silly news program one day. They showed a picture of Callie at sixteen, the same one you have on your phone. It all clicked. I hoped I was wrong, so I invented a new excuse to touch her and see if she had a scar on her hip where that bullet got her. ”

  “And when you found it, you cut off all but the most professional contact. ” Sean didn’t phrase it like a question. He knew the answer.

  Though Thorpe didn’t like being transparent, he supposed his motives weren’t that hard to deduce.

  “Yes. She was always going to leave me. It was just a matter of when. ” As soon as he’d had to stop touching Callie, Thorpe realized just how attached to her he’d become. And it had scared the hell out of him. He’d punished her by being an absolute bastard.

  God, didn’t he sound like a pussy, afraid of his own emotions?

  “You didn’t want to endure heartache again after your divorce. ”

  Sean didn’t know the half of it.

  “Something like that. But seeing you with her . . . ” Thorpe let out a deep breath. “I realized then that all my attempts to deny my feelings had been a fucking waste. Happy now? Can we change the subject?”

  “Almost. ” Sean cut a stare over at him. “If we find her, are you going to be willing to risk your heart for her? Because if you’re not, you shouldn’t bother fighting me for her. We both agreed that she’s not meant to be alone. ”

  Thorpe wasn’t sure what the hell he was going to do. He wanted to fight for her . . . but what was best for Callie? “You’re not entirely prepared to handle her. ”

  Sean crossed his arms over his chest. “What does that mean?”

  “If you’re really a Dom, you haven’t been one for long. You’re a bit too lenient with the girl. Sometimes, she’s a handful because she wants your attention. You give it to her and let her top from the bottom. ” Thorpe tsked at him. “I’ve also noticed that you’re not comfortable with all the equipment in the dungeon. If we find her, are you going to be willing to expand your boundaries to be what she needs? If not, you should leave her to me. ”

  That made Sean indignant. “Fuck you. I may not have been an acknowledged pervert for two decades, but I’m more than willing to ‘expand my boundaries’ to hang on to Callie. ”

  “Pfft. ” Thorpe rolled his eyes. “You’ve been at this . . . what? Less than a year?”

  “Actually, I got interested a couple of years back, went to a few clubs in Florida with some friends. But long-term undercover assignments didn’t exactly leave me a lot of time to get my kink on. ”

  Thorpe opened his mouth to drop Mackenzie with a scathing remark about wannabe Doms, but his phone rang. They both pounced for it, but he was closer and pressed the button to answer the call. “Logan?”

  “Put it on speaker,” Sean demanded.

  “Can you both hear me?” Logan asked.

  Feeling a supreme irritation that damn near choked him, Thorpe hit the speaker button and laid the phone on the console between them. “Yeah. ”

  “I’m here,” Sean advised. “Is Callie with your friend?”

  “I put her on the plane. One of the flight attendants says she remembers seeing Callie napping at the very back. There was no way she could have gotten off that bird in midair. But Elijah said she never met him in baggage claim, like I instructed her to. ”

  “You don’t know where she is?” Sean growled.

  “She’s missing?” Thorpe echoed his incredulous tone.

  “Yeah. ” Logan sounded somber. “But that isn’t the worst news. Elijah spotted some dude in a uniform he’d never seen flashing Callie’s picture to the passengers just as they cleared the secure area of the terminal. The guy asked a lot of questions. ”

  Thorpe’s veins ran icy with foreboding, then he snapped his gaze to Sean. “Uniform? Like military?”

  “That’s the impression he gave me, yeah,” Logan confirmed. “But not one he’d ever seen. That, along with everything else, sends up a big red flag for me. ”

  “Me, too. How is this possible?”

  “I don’t know. It doesn’t make any sense. ” Logan sighed. “I didn’t tell a single other soul besides Elijah and you two that I’d put her on the plane. ”

  “Thorpe and I haven’t been out of one another’s sight since. ” The fed’s expression said he didn’t like any of this.

  “And Elijah wouldn’t talk. He’s tight. Besides, I didn’t even tell him who she really was,” Logan explained. “Callie didn’t mention anything about being hunted by anyone else when she told me why she wanted to leave Dallas. Could the feds be after her, Mackenzie?”

  “If they were, I should be the first to know. Even if I was out of the loop, they wouldn’t come after her in some uniform. ”

  “You’re right,” Logan agreed. “Everyone Elijah talked to from the flight seemed wary or shaken after the uniformed dude left. Whatever mess that girl has gotten herself into, she’s in way over her head. You’ve got to get to Vegas and find her before this asshole does. ”

  Chapter Nine

  SEAN thanked God that Thorpe had rich friends when they landed in Las Vegas a few hours later. After Logan’s pronouncement that Callie was at large somewhere in Sin City, he and Thorpe had both been ready to crawl out of their skins. Two minutes later, Thorpe had placed a call to Xander Santiago. Sean remembered him, his brother, and the pretty blonde sub they shared from their visit to Dominion over the previous summer—mostly because Callie had left the club with the other woman and disappeared for damn near twelve hours.

  That turned out to be a bonus. Because Callie had taken such good care of Xander and Javier’s wife, London, the billionaires had been more than willing to lend him and Thorpe their plane. It had been fueled up and jetting to Amarillo, Texas, in no time. They hadn’t waited long at all before the small luxury plane arrived to spirit them away to Vegas.
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  After a fitful catnap in midair, they touched down around noon. As he tossed his carry-on over one shoulder, Sean raced Thorpe to the exit and down the airstairs. Thorpe had shoved some necessities of his own in a briefcase and now clutched it in his fist as he sprinted for the parking lot. Anything they needed and hadn’t packed they could buy—except time. And every moment that ticked by they spent away from Callie made it less likely they would find her at all, much less before some uniform who already seemed half a step ahead of them did. At the twenty-four-hour mark, it was likely the trail would grow cold, and they’d already eaten up half their time on fucking travel.

  “We’ve got our plan,” he reminded Thorpe, tamping down his anxiety. “Let’s stick to it. ”

  The club owner nodded absently, running for the stranger waiting in the distance. Logan’s friend Elijah was big, bald, and menacing. The former SEAL didn’t look like someone he’d want for an enemy. Nor was he much for small talk, which suited Sean just fine.

  Within seconds, they’d taken the keys to the man’s truck and paid him to rent a car. The idea wasn’t perfect, but it wouldn’t leave a completely obvious trail for anyone to follow. Since someone in a uniform had known to follow Callie to Vegas, the guy might also be keeping an eye on him and Thorpe, too. They’d have to lie really fucking low in order to both find her and figure out who followed her.

  The moment they reached Elijah’s Jeep, Sean slipped behind the wheel. He’d done an undercover stint in Vegas about two years ago and knew his way around the city reasonably well. The second Thorpe’s ass hit the passenger seat, the man had his burner phone open and was calling folks in the local fet community. Sean doubted that Callie would fall back into a kink environment. She might find it comfortable, but he suspected she would choose to be as unpredictable as possible. It had kept her alive and free this long.

  In the meantime, Sean pulled out his own phone as he tore away from the airport and started calling some less-than-legal guys he’d met here previously. He asked questions delicately because he wasn’t about to tip off known criminals about a woman with a two-million-dollar bounty on her head. No one had seen a new girl in town working the seedier side of life who matched Callie’s description, but Sean didn’t think it would be long. She hadn’t had time to plan her escape to the last detail. She’d have to fall back on existing skills for fast cash until she could come up with a better plan.

  Thorpe slammed his phone on the console with a curse.

  “I take it that means you came up empty-handed?” Sean asked.

  “Yes, damn it. I know a club owner named Talon who’s connected to nearly everyone in the life here in Vegas. But he hasn’t seen or heard about anyone new who fits Callie’s description in the last day or so. Then again, she’ll already have some sort of disguise. ”

  Undoubtedly. He and Thorpe would have to factor that in. “We’ve made our initial contacts. Now we’re going to have to split up. You hit the fet joints and kink bars, make the rounds there in case she’s hiding out. I’ll hit dive bars, nightclubs, restaurants—anyplace that might have filled the need for quick help in the last day or so. We both just need to look past any disguise for that familiar face. ”

  “Absolutely. She won’t get away from me again.

  “Callie won’t be working on the Strip,” Sean warned. “She’ll have found somewhere just off, maybe downtown, somewhere with a bit less sophisticated security, where she could make money without drawing too much attention to herself. ”

  “I’ll check into a few bars I know. If I come up empty, we’ll keep trying until something works. ”

  “And if you find her, you better not skip the fucking country. You got that?” Sean threatened. “It’s likely going to take more than one person to protect her, and if someone in a secret branch of the military wants her, then you bet your ass they can reach you down in South America. ”

  “I know,” Thorpe said, obviously resigned. “I’ve already thought of that. ”

  Sean nodded grimly and drove straight for the downtown area that had seen its glory days early in Vegas’s history, sixty years ago. Overall, the hotels were a little seedier, as were the people. Callie could easily get lost in this sea of humanity. A wig, a few new clothes, some colored contacts . . . No one would know her—or care. She wouldn’t stay long in this city. Callie must know that he and Thorpe would come looking for her. And if she knew someone official sought her and had shaken Logan’s protection, then she would want out of this city even faster. They had a few days. A week, tops. As soon as she saved a little money, she would slip out of town. Or out of the country.

 
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