Theirs to cherish, p.25
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       Theirs to Cherish, p.25
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         Part #8 of Wicked Lovers series by Shayla Black
Page 25


  “Not going to happen, lovely. ” The words were a vow, spoken as Sean prowled closer, but his expression was pure warning. He meant to assert his will.

  She froze, then her gaze darted around the room. Thorpe’s gut knotted. Goddamn it, she was going to make a run for it.

  He opened his mouth to warn Sean, but she was quicker, taking off one of her wicked shoes and tossing it in Sean’s direction. Callie’s makeshift weapon smacked him in the shoulder, then she planted her hand on his chest and shoved him off balance. While Sean scrambled to right himself, she tore off the other stiletto and raised it menacingly at the bouncer. He charged her and grabbed her wrist, clamping down harshly to stop her from pelting him. So she kicked him in the balls.

  As the incredibly stupid hulk dropped to his knees, he clutched his genitals and groaned. Callie sprinted past him and through the curtain, disappearing backstage.

  Thorpe darted up the stairs after her, tearing past the drape in time to see her shove the weathered industrial back door open and race into the alley behind the building. He swore and took off after her.

  The metal door was swinging shut, and Thorpe pushed it open, then hit the alley. Under the spotlight of a bug-infested bulb, he looked left, then right before he caught sight of Callie dashing away on her bare feet in a fevered panic, artificial blond pigtails swinging against her pale back only saved from bareness by the strap of that tiny, sexy bra. Damn it, she was either begging to step on glass or be raped by some criminal in the shadows. Of course, she was in full flight mode and not using all her logic, but what the hell was she thinking?

  One thing became immediately clear: Callie was younger and surprisingly fast. But if he let her through his grasp again, he’d be fucked seven ways from Sunday.

  He charged after her as fast as his stride would take him, rapidly gaining ground on the barefoot girl. She was about to reach the end of the alley, which didn’t worry him . . . until a taxi rolled by. Of all the rotten fucking luck.

  Somehow, he had to stop Callie. On feet, he wouldn’t catch her in time. Neither would Sean, whom he could hear chugging down the pavement behind him. Once Callie made it inside that taxi, Thorpe knew she’d be gone forever. She’d definitely be taking his heart with her. And Sean’s. Motherfucker.

  Between the lights of other businesses and the moon, he could see that the alley was blessedly empty. So he did the one thing he thought might stop the panicked girl in her tracks.

  “Callindra Alexis Howe, stop and look at me this instant. ”

  Chapter Eleven

  WHEN Callie heard Thorpe shout her real name, her heart screeched to a stop. He knew? She turned, still backing away, tangled up in his gray eyes. How? When? What had given her away?

  Damn it, his life had just become twenty times more complicated—and dangerous. She didn’t want that for him.

  Stricken, she shook her head, struggling to take in air. “You’re wrong. That’s not me. ”

  Thorpe approached her in long, determined steps, his face granite, his hand outstretched. Behind him, Sean, that deceitful snake, charged toward her like a train with a headful of steam. She spun around and darted away again. What the hell was he doing here? With Thorpe? She couldn’t allow either of them to get their hands on her.

  Callie raced for the cab fifty feet away, still idling at the corner and waiting for the light to turn green. Dressed only in a bra and a little short skirt, she could probably get his attention. Maybe. In this neighborhood, maybe not. Good thing she had money in her thong. She’d have to pick up her “go” bag at the motel, lay low for a while, then find a bus station . . .

  “Don’t you lie to me,” Thorpe shouted out to her. “And don’t run!”

  “Don’t believe Sean,” she tossed over her shoulder.

  “That nick on your left hip came from a bullet, delivered when your family’s killer shot at you. I felt it with my own fucking fingers. ”

  Two Decembers ago, when he’d touched her intimately. That explained so much, like why after so many passionate kisses, each an exquisite promise, he’d walked away without a word and left her aching. And why he’d cut off nearly all romantic or sexual contact since.

  For the past two years, Thorpe had never even hinted that he knew the truth. And despite the stupidly huge bounty on her head, he had never turned her in, either.

  Sean would the moment she stood still. She’d seen his badge at Glitter Girls. Obviously, she’d been wrong about him. He might not be an assassin trying to kill her or a bounty hunter out for a quick payday, but he’d damn sure arrest her the first chance he got.

  “Stop!” Thorpe thundered.

  His footsteps drew closer and closer, but she didn’t dare heed his words. “Let me go. ”

  “Never. ”

  At the iron resolve in his tone, Callie’s heart roared harder. She glanced over her shoulder. Sure enough, he was closing in—fast. And now, Sean was nowhere in sight. It didn’t matter. She was nearly to the taxi . . .

  With maybe ten steps to go, she landed on a rock. It gouged her heel, slicing the skin open. The sting screamed up her leg. She tried not to let the pain stop her, but when she slammed that foot down on the asphalt again, the pebble embedded deeper in her skin. The sharp ache nearly made her crumple to the ground. She slowed, hobbled, until Thorpe was nearly on top of her.

  Panicked, Callie opened her mouth to scream to the taxi driver—to anyone who would listen. Sean jumped out from behind a Dumpster and clamped one arm around her waist like a vise. The other he bracketed over her mouth.

  “Stop!” he panted.

  His breath was warm on her face, his body like a furnace against her chilled skin, now sheened with perspiration. Her senses registered succor and safety. They wanted to melt into him. They yearned for his gentle touch, his fiery kiss . . .

  Every one of which had been a lie.

  Her brain screeched that she should pry herself away and run. Callie bucked wildly so she could free her mouth and tell Sean to go to hell. But he held tight. Thorpe blanketed her back, bracing his hands on her hips. She tried to stand strong and defiant, but he wrapped his suit coat around her shoulders both to warm and immobilize her. Immediately, the garment steeped her in his body heat. Their hot breaths caressed her skin. Their heady masculine scents swirled together as their taut bodies surrounded her.

  “Don’t move,” Thorpe growled. “You’re in enough trouble as it is. ”

  She shivered at those words. Then, mere feet in front of her, the taxi dashed away, taking with it her only avenue of escape.

  Finally, Sean slowly drew his hand away from her lips, staring down at her with blue eyes, piercing her despite the crappy lighting and shadows. She steeled her heart against his once beloved face. She’d always associated him with patience and gentle care. Now she knew he was a con artist with a badge, callous enough to steal her heart just to bring her in.

  “Take your fucking hands off me. ”

  Face tightening with displeasure, Sean narrowed his eyes at her. “Looking to add to your punishment, lovely? I don’t recommend it. Your ass is already going to be sore. ”

  “You and your former fake accent can go eat shit. I took my collar off, so you have no business touching me. ”

  “That’s not precisely how it works, Callie, and you know it,” Thorpe murmured in her ear.

  She turned her head to the man she’d once trusted and loved above all others. “You’re on his side now? I never imagined that you’d be gullible enough to fall for his lines, too. ”

  Behind her, Thorpe leaned around to look at Sean. “There won’t be any reasoning with her in the next ten minutes. ”

  Sean grunted. “Or in the next millennium, I imagine. This isn’t a smart place to talk. ”

  “Good point. ”

  “Stay with her. I’ll bring the car. ”

  She could all but feel Thorpe smile. “I’ll make sure she doesn’t go anywhere. ”
r />   Callie’s jaw dropped. When the hell had they gotten so chummy? And why did Thorpe trust the liar?

  With her head still reeling, Sean jogged off. She struggled against Thorpe’s grip, holding out hope that another taxi would zoom by. But even if she was lucky enough for that, she didn’t think she could outrun him with her foot smarting.

  “Why are you helping that rat?” She’d always believed that Thorpe would be on her side, and knowing otherwise felt as if someone had pried her heart from her chest with a crowbar. “He wants to see me in prison. ”

  “Sean wants to protect you, pet. Just like I do. Don’t look at me like that,” he demanded. “You didn’t ask any questions before you jumped to conclusions. You just ran away. And you were dead wrong. ”

  “He fooled you like he fooled me. ”

  “If he’d wanted to arrest you, he could have done it anytime over the last seven months,” Thorpe reasoned. “He could have brought in a small army of agents and let them haul you out. I wouldn’t have been able to stop them. If you think he’s in an all-fired hurry to lock you up and throw away the key, ask yourself why he hasn’t already done it. ”

  Callie tried. There was logic in what Thorpe was saying, but she’d been running for so long. Her flight response was so ingrained. Panic still pumped through her system. The thought niggled in the back of her head . . . What if Thorpe was wrong?

  “Pet. ” His low voice soothed. “Think about it. ”

  “Then why didn’t he tell me he was some sort of agent?”

  “Because you would have run immediately if you’d discovered he was FBI. We all know that, especially Sean. You don’t trust well, Callie, and we understand the reasons. But things are going to change now. Neither of us will ever risk you. If we haven’t turned you in for two million dollars yet, we’re not likely to. ”

  Headlights bobbed up the worn alley before a silver Jeep she didn’t recognize stopped beside them. Sean stuck his head out the window. “Someone already called the police. They’re two blocks over. Get in. ”

  As Callie’s blood ran cold, Thorpe cursed and shoved her toward the vehicle. She dug in her heels.

  “Callie!” Thorpe growled. “Get in the fucking car. ”

  She probably stood a better chance of eluding the local police than the FBI. She might be able to convince the Vegas PD that she was the victim of some random attack in this alley. It was possible they’d release her before they figured out who she was, and she’d be long gone before the truth hit them.

  But that would leave Thorpe . . . where? In jail? And what about Sean? If he really wasn’t trying to turn her in for the cash or a pat on the back at work . . . The implications were staggering. Would the police think the guys had kidnapped her or something? What if they couldn’t get away? What if she couldn’t? A million thoughts raced through her head, and she couldn’t quite grasp any of them. On the one hand, she’d relied on herself for so long, she didn’t really know how to relinquish her control. On the other hand, as Thorpe had pointed out, they hadn’t given her up or let anyone haul her away, so why would they start now?

  Crap, she wasn’t sure what to do.

  “Trust me, Callie,” Sean stared at her through the driver’s side window. He held out one hand to her, his earnest expression willing her to believe him. “Whatever you think, I swear that I’m not here now because of my job. I would do anything to keep you safe. ”

  His words made her melt a little more than they should. Gawd, she wanted to believe him so badly. If she was wrong and she climbed into that SUV, it could mean the end of her freedom. She hadn’t managed to elude capture for this long because she made decisions with her heart.

  A shout from Glitter Girls’ parking lot had her head zipping around and her gaze trying to penetrate the dark and distance. Thorpe, however, just lost his patience.

  With a grunt, he picked her up, yanked open the door to the backseat, and tossed her in. She braced herself on the leather bench, scrambling to the far side of the SUV as Thorpe jumped in and slammed the door.

  Callie didn’t like any of this—too sudden, no time to think. She didn’t run off with other people. She’d managed to escape the fateful night her family had been killed and she was still alive today because she’d stayed one step ahead of the cops and killers after her. She wasn’t about to drag Thorpe through the mud. And she was still on the fence about whether to believe Sean.

  Lunging for the passenger door on the far side of the car, Callie grabbed the handle, preparing to tumble out into the chilly November evening again and dash the distance to . . . somewhere. Wherever Thorpe and Sean weren’t.

  Sean merely locked the doors to the car, killed the headlights, then rocketed into the night. At the first corner, he flipped on the headlights again and merged into traffic, blending in with every other car chasing Lady Luck on the Vegas streets.

  “Are you insane?” she shrieked at Thorpe. “Do you understand what will happen if the authorities find out that you’re knowingly aiding a fugitive’s escape? It was one thing when you could say I lied to you. Then you could have been the victim. Then you wouldn’t have gone to jail. ” She glared at Sean in the driver’s seat. “And if you’re not going to arrest me, do you realize that you could lose your job? What the hell are you two doing?”

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