Theirs to cherish, p.28
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       Theirs to Cherish, p.28

         Part #8 of Wicked Lovers series by Shayla Black
Page 28


  Meanwhile, Sean reached out to Elijah to explain where they’d left his Jeep and to advise him to call Logan if he learned anything more about the military goon he’d seen flashing Callie’s picture at baggage claim.

  Those tasks completed, he’d used his new phone to put through his final call, this one to a business he’d seen advertised in a brochure at their hotel. He’d awakened the old man in the middle of the night with a bullshit name and promised a wad of cash in exchange for a houseboat for seven days.

  Shortly after that, they’d arrived at the marina with Callie and their bags. They set about casting off from the docks in grim silence. The minute the sun rose, Sean vowed to steer this fifty-foot luxury vessel to a secluded spot so they could get down to work. It wasn’t a perfect solution, but without known phone numbers, Wi-Fi, or other means to trace them, he hoped they could hide until he and Thorpe could figure out how to make Callie safe for good. Sean had no clue how long that would take or what they’d have to do. He was risking everything by disconnecting from his superiors. Not only could he be fired and Thorpe lose his business, but it was possible they’d be hauled off to jail for obstruction and hampering an investigation. Still, Sean didn’t see any alternative if Callie was going to have a future and he wanted to be a part of it.

  But this road trip/search-and-rescue mission had shown him that tomorrow wasn’t simple. Sean knew he would never have gotten this far without Thorpe’s assistance, and he was surprisingly glad to have the man helping him keep her both safe and in line.

  Over and over in his head, he kept replaying the way the Dom had punished Callie in the Jeep. She had lay sprawled across Thorpe’s lap, her backside all but bare to him, her cries resounding in the dark. Not even a blind man would have missed Thorpe’s peace at having her under his control, being the master of her beautiful vulnerability.

  Callie hadn’t been immune, either. He’d asked if she was wet to establish that fact. The other man hadn’t had the chance to check, but Sean would have bet his job and his life that she’d been turned on by that manhandling. Thorpe had probably known it, too.

  Yes, Sean suspected that Callie would have responded to his own discipline and submitted to him as well, but that quickly and with that much abandon? Sure, she’d complained about Thorpe’s punishment—that was Callie—but far more than sexual desire glued them together. They yearned for one another. Somewhere in her stubborn heart, Sean knew that she loved him, too. After all, she’d blossomed beneath his tender care just days ago, giving her body to him and a tantalizing chunk of her soul.

  He and Thorpe had already acknowledged they both loved her. And if she loved both of them . . . where the hell did they go from here?

  Together, he and Thorpe eased into the galley to put away the groceries, ensuring all the food-related bags had been emptied.

  “I think that’s everything. ” Sean glanced around the room. Together, they grabbed most of the other bags—toiletries, clothes, and other necessities—along with the bottle of tequila he’d bought during his middle-of-the-night stop. “We should talk. ”

  Thorpe gave a tight nod. “Where we can keep an eye on Callie. ”

  “Agreed. ” Sean’s thoughts raced as he backtracked to the bedroom in which she slept, Thorpe trailing behind him down the narrow passage. Inside, he walked to the far side of the bed, set the bottle on the nightstand, toed off his shoes, then climbed in beside her, trailing his hand across the chilled skin of her back. The other man stood, watching Callie with a hunger so strong, it was visceral.

  In her sleep, she shivered, and Sean gathered her closer, sliding down to plaster his body against hers, wishing he could hoard her. But other than him, who did that benefit?

  “Damn it, she’s freezing,” he told Thorpe. “Can you look at her foot? When you’re done, I’ll find some blankets for the bed. ”

  “Yeah. ” Thorpe dug through the plastic bag dangling from his fingers until he found some cotton balls and antiseptic. With a wince, he flipped on the overhead light while Sean shielded Callie’s eyes.

  If the sight of him holding her bothered Thorpe, it didn’t show. Instead, the big Dom simply cleaned her wound. He tended to her need, shelving his own, even when she moaned groggily and tried to squirm away. Sean watched the man’s big hand curl around her ankle to steady her so he could try to heal her. The visual metaphor struck Sean in the gut. Over the years, Thorpe had done that for Callie in nearly every other way. It was one reason she loved him. Sean wondered if his own broken trust with the girl could be repaired. Would she ever see that, even though he’d given her a fake name, his feelings for her had been very real?

  Once Thorpe was done with his first aid, he turned off the light, casting the bedroom in shadow again. Sean flicked the rocker switch for the nightstand light, casting a dim artificial glow over the bed.

  “It’s not serious,” Thorpe said. “Her heel will be tender for a few days. ”

  Sean nodded. “Good to hear. ”

  The other man looked away. Out of discomfort because Thorpe didn’t want to see him cradling Callie’s scantily clad body? Or out of respect because Thorpe believed she wasn’t his? Either way, the other Dom didn’t waste time squabbling or backbiting. Matters now were far too serious for that.

  “Um, the guy who rented us the boat—Werner, wasn’t it?—said there was another bedroom down the hall, right?” Thorpe tugged at the back of his neck. “And a shower? If we’re done here, I think I’ll just grab those and—”

  “We’re not. Stay. ” Sean tempered his demand. “Please. We really do need to talk. ”

  There was no place in the small bedroom for Thorpe to sit except the bed. He stood, arms crossed, until Sean motioned to the mattress on the other side of Callie and passed him the bottle of tequila.

  With a sigh, Thorpe sat on the edge and wrangled open the bottle, taking a long swallow.

  “Sorry, I haven’t got any salt and lime. ”

  Thorpe shrugged. “It just slows down the drinking. ”

  He held out his hand for the bottle. “Amen to that. ”

  After taking a long swallow, he passed the tequila back to Thorpe. The alcohol was already warming him, but she still trembled with the chill.

  “Callie needs a blanket,” Sean said. “Let me find one. ”

  Thorpe made to rise. “I’ll do it. ”

  It would have been so easy to let the other man see to the task, but what did Callie need? The answer wasn’t simple . . . but seemed so obvious. Sean swallowed hard.

  “You keep her warm. I’ll find it. I think I remember where Werner said he stashed the rest of the bedding. ”

  Sean jumped up and prowled in the room’s little closet. He found a stack of blankets on a shelf, but loitered to see what Thorpe would do. The other man set the bottle aside and sank farther onto the bed. His gaze fell instantly on Callie, but he kept his distance until the girl shivered again. November had turned cold, especially out on the water. The boat had a heater, but Sean hadn’t found it yet. She still wore next to nothing. And judging by the look on Thorpe’s face, he was hard-pressed to forget that.

  When she trembled again, he gathered her in his arms, closing his eyes as she settled against him with a little sigh. The contentment on his face spoke volumes to Sean. Even though everything was up in the air and filled with danger, in that moment, all was right with Thorpe. And Callie. The sight didn’t bother Sean. She was safe and content—and he was surprisingly good with that.

  When the big Dom looked settled, Sean scooped up the blankets and spread a couple over her. She burrowed under them, looking even more relaxed.

  Moments later, he sat beside Callie, who remained nestled against Thorpe, and combed his fingers through her silky hair. “I need to say a couple of things. ”

  Thorpe tensed. “Shoot. ”

  “First, we have to figure out who’s after Callie and why. My money is still on whoever had her family offed. ”

/>   “Mine, too. ”

  “Which means we have to dig deeper into Callie’s background. We’ll have to ask her questions when she wakes up. ”

  “Oh, she’ll love that,” Thorpe drawled.

  “I’m sure. But as painful as she may find the mental jaunt through her past, I think it’s important. There’s no way she doesn’t know something. It may just take the right questions for her to remember it. Once we figure everything out, we’ll go from there. ”

  “Don’t you think she’s tried this a million times?” Thorpe looked up at him as if he was stating the obvious.

  Maybe he was.

  Sean shrugged. “I’m hoping that more heads are better than one. We can’t fail to try just because she hasn’t succeeded on her own. I’ve been studying this case for close to a year. I’ll have a better idea of the questions that need to be asked. Maybe that will make a difference. ”

  “Maybe. ” Thorpe shrugged.

  “I didn’t say it would be overnight. In fact, I’m betting it won’t be. But however long it takes, I’m in this for the duration. ”

  “Because you love her?”

  Nodding, Sean held out his hand for the tequila. Without displacing Callie, Thorpe rolled over and plucked up the bottle from the floor, passing it over her supine form.

  “Same as you. ” Sean took a long swallow of the clear liquid from the bottle they shared.

  Thorpe didn’t comment directly. “I’m not sure if she’s ready for either of us to feel that way. She doesn’t know how to let herself be loved because she never really has been. ”

  Sean didn’t even have to think about that. “As a woman? No. ”

  “I’d love a piece of that Holden pecker who tried to sell her out for cash as a teenager. I’d wring his fucking neck. ”

  “Actually, I’d like to get way more creative,” Sean mused. “I’d rip his throat out through his asshole after I’ve carved out his spine with a screwdriver and gouged out his eyes with a spork. ”

  “Remind me not to piss you off. ” Thorpe looked both horrified and suitably impressed.

  Sean smiled. “As long as Callie comes first, we won’t have a problem. She needs that. Based on her file, I think the only person, besides us, who openly loved Callie was her mother. ”

  “She was only six when the woman died. ” Dismay spread across Thorpe’s face.

  “Exactly. ” Sean took another long swig of booze. “She and her sister had more of a mother-daughter relationship. By all accounts, she really loved Charlotte, but when the girl hit twelve, she started rebelling and they’d been having major arguments about her behavior. ” He paused. “According to the autopsy, Charlotte was nine weeks pregnant when she died. ”

  “At fourteen? I know that happens, but . . . ” Shock sent Thorpe’s brows into a frown. “Do you think Callie knew?”

  “Only she can answer that. Lots of speculation about who fathered Charlotte’s baby . . . ”

  Thorpe’s frown became a scowl. “You think it was Callie’s prick of a boyfriend?”

  “Holden apparently spent a lot of time at their house, and he was obviously an unscrupulous bastard. I’d say anything is possible. ”

  Thorpe ruffled a hand through his mussed hair. “Son of a bitch. If that’s the case, it could be another reason she doesn’t trust well. Being betrayed by her boyfriend and her sister at such a young age would be harsh. ”

  “It wasn’t as if she could rely on her father, either. My information says that, after her mother died, he left the girls’ care to hired help and began hanging out with people willing to take his money, primarily medical researchers. Seems he became obsessed with discovering the cure for cancer in his late wife’s name. ”

  “Oh hell. ” Thorpe shook his head. “The girls were so young. They had lost a mother. They needed reassurance, guidance, and love. No wonder Callie wanted to run away from home and believed the first guy with a stiff dick who claimed to love her. She learned her lesson the hard way. How the hell is she supposed to recover from that while running for her damn life?”

  “I’m not sure she has. I’ve tried to heal her as much as I could, but as you know, it’s a big fucking job. ” Sean sighed. “She needs constants, people she can count on without fail. ”

  That thought seemed to sober Thorpe even more. “You’re right. ”

  “So if you want to head back to Dominion, tell me now. I’ll get you to land after sunrise. As long as you keep your mouth shut, I’ll understand. ”

  “What? I haven’t come this far to bail now. I won’t abandon Callie. Axel can manage Dominion without me. Lots of folks there will help. And Sweet Pea might seem like the most submissive creature ever, but she can run that place like a drill instructor when she has to. ”

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