Theirs to cherish, p.30
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       Theirs to Cherish, p.30

         Part #8 of Wicked Lovers series by Shayla Black
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Page 30

 

  Her heart pounded so furiously that her blood vessels felt close to bursting. Her entire body flooded with adrenaline. Memories of nearly drowning as a kid and the brackish water filling her mouth, stinging her eyes, and rendering her lungs useless overwhelmed her.

  If she wanted off this rocking prison, she would have to swim and climb and haul ass through the desert without shoes, water, or sunscreen. Hell, she was doomed.

  Callie couldn’t stop herself. She opened her mouth and screamed. And screamed. And screamed.

  Suddenly, she felt a hand cup over her lips, trapping in the sound. “Are you trying to bring every police officer and bounty hunter within a hundred-mile radius down on our heads?”

  Sean. He growled the words in her ear as he bracketed her back with his solid warmth.

  On her right, Thorpe stormed up and turned on her, looking disheveled and pissed off. He grabbed the back of her neck in a firm grip. His gray eyes looked thunderous as he pinned her in place with his stare. “Calm down, pet. Not another sound. You’re safe here. We intend to keep you that way. ”

  Surrounded. Trapped. Escape had been the only way she’d survived for nearly as long as she could remember. Now, these two seemed determined to keep her here on this floating hell and ruin their lives in the process.

  She twisted away, dislodging Sean’s hand from her mouth. “Don’t do this! Let me go before you regret it. ”

  “I told you not to make a sound,” Thorpe reminded, his voice heavy with disapproval.

  Behind her, Sean’s disappointment seeped into her, too.

  She hated hurting them. The submissive in her especially hated disappointing them. Logically, it didn’t make sense, but that didn’t make the feeling less real.

  “Let’s get her inside. ”

  Sean nodded. “Just in case this lake isn’t as deserted as we hoped. The last thing we need is a fellow boater hearing her and calling 911. If they come down on our heads and find her, I may not be able to control what happens next. ”

  Without exchanging another word, he wrapped one hand around her back, then bent and slid his other arm behind her knees. He lifted her against his bare chest as if her weight didn’t strain him at all. His shoulders bulged and his jaw tightened as he turned and made his way back inside the living quarters. He stared down at her with reproving blue eyes and gave her a slow shake of his head.

  She would have squirmed and scrambled out of his arms if she thought it would do any good, but Thorpe walked right behind them. No doubt, he’d haul her back if she tried to run—and provide her some sort of extra “motivation” to stay. And if she did flee, what then? Swimming to shore and walking back to civilization without any protection from the desert sun or a cent to her name just wasn’t an option.

  “We’re not hashing this out again, lovely,” Sean said. “We told you last night that you were not to leave again without our permission or there would be consequences. Do you remember that?”

  “This isn’t about me being disobedient. It’s about you two losing everything to try to save me when you can’t. No one can. I appreciate you wanting to help, but I wouldn’t be able to handle it if you wound up convicts over something futile. ”

  Sean sighed heavily as he lowered her to the bed and looked at Thorpe. “She’s not listening. ”

  “She has that nasty habit at times. ” Thorpe approached her and took her chin in his hand. “Your situation isn’t futile. Have some faith in us. ”

  “Thorpe—”

  He sent her a sharp stare and held up a finger to silence her. Damn if it didn’t work. He’d run hot and cold with her for years. Why the hell did she still respond to him so completely?

  “It’s not open for discussion. When was the last time you ate?” he asked.

  With a frustrated sigh, Callie mentally retraced the previous day. “Breakfast yesterday. Then I had a handful of almonds about three o’clock. ”

  They both looked at her with glaring disapproval before Sean clenched his fists. “Damn it, Callie. ”

  “It just wasn’t the most important thing on my mind. ” Their frowns deepened, and their concern for her made her feel small, as if she’d messed up even more. “Sorry. ”

  “Not yet, but you will be,” Thorpe promised before he turned back to Sean. “How are your kitchen skills?”

  “Passable. I’ve been feeding myself since college. ” He shrugged. “I won’t poison her. ”

  “Good. Mine are terrible. It’s why God invented takeout. ” Thorpe smiled wryly.

  “I can feed myself, guys. If it will make you feel better, I’ll grab something and eat it all like a good little girl if you’ll just let me go. ”

  “Not this again. ” Sean sounded at the end of his rope.

  “She doesn’t understand . . . yet,” Thorpe drawled. “First, she needs food. ”

  “And a shower,” Sean added.

  “True. God knows how many fucking germs were breeding at Glitter Girls. ” Thorpe speared her with a glare. “Eventually, we’re going to have a long discussion about why you chose that place. ”

  “You mean you intend to punish me again. ” She rolled her eyes.

  “And then sometimes she catches on so quickly . . . ” Thorpe smiled Sean’s way.

  “I’ve been sure for a while now that she chooses not to ‘get it’ at least half the time because she’s just stubborn. ” Sean sighed.

  Callie balled her hands into fists. “Stop it! You’re not my Dom anymore—if you ever truly were. I took off my collar. And before either of you tells me again it doesn’t work that way, you both know that BDSM is safe, sane, and consensual. I’m not consenting. And you. ” She turned to glare at Thorpe. “Yes, you’re the big bad Dom or whatever. But damn it, that doesn’t give you any right to keep me against my will. You have to let me go!”

  They both tensed, then Sean shook his head. Instead of persuading them to release her, she’d hurt him. Pain was carved into his expression. By all appearances, he’d sacrificed everything to help her, and she’d thrown it in his face. Thorpe, too. A glance at her boss didn’t show him any less ruffled. He mostly looked pissed off, except his burning eyes . . . Anguish lay there.

  Callie dragged in a tight breath, everything inside her feeling as if she’d screwed up again.

  “That’s not going to happen,” Sean vowed softly. “If you still want to leave once you’re safe, I’ll take you wherever you want to go and leave you with my well wishes. ”

  If he wanted to arrest her, would he really make that offer? He’d have to be the worst kind of con artist . . . and foolish or not, Callie just couldn’t believe that about him.

  Thorpe stared, his face closed up tight. “Until then, you’re staying here with us. We intend to keep you safe and solve this mystery. You can count on that, pet. ”

  Their selflessness—along with a hefty dose of guilt—flogged her all over again.

  “Guys, please. ” Tears prickled her eyes. “I don’t want you to do something that will destroy your future. ”

  “We don’t want you running for the rest of your life. And I don’t want to have this conversation again. Our decision won’t change. If we have to keep you against your will . . . ” Thorpe shrugged.

  “You can’t do that forever. You both have lives. ” She sighed tiredly. “Mine is screwed, but yours don’t have to be. I can’t prove that I didn’t kill my father and sister. The crime is way cold, and no amount of investigating now is going to—”

  “The FBI doesn’t want to arrest you,” Sean cut in.

  “What?” She couldn’t have heard that right.

  “If the bureau took an interest in this case and wanted you behind bars, you’d already be locked up. I was just sent to watch you, look for any clues, nothing more. They wouldn’t give me that directive if they believed you’d committed a terrible crime. ”

  The news impacted her like a two-ton bomb, both blowing her away and creating one hel
l of a crater in her thoughts. “The Chicago police still have an APB out on me. ”

  “They want to question you, but that’s not my jurisdiction. I only care about my orders. Uncle Sam hasn’t given me any indication that you’re regarded as a criminal. ”

  Callie blinked. She wasn’t actually wanted for murder? After nine years, she didn’t even know how to process that possibility. “Then why the huge bounty on my head? Because of that, I almost bit an assassin’s bullet in Birmingham. I literally ran out of Arkansas with a pair of bounty-hunting goons chasing me. I’ve crossed paths with both sorts over the years and—”

  “Both are definitely after you, pet,” Thorpe cut in.

  “And I think someone powerful is behind the bounty or I wouldn’t have been assigned to keep tabs on you. ”

  “Why didn’t you tell me any of this?” she asked, crossing her arms over her chest.

  “I wasn’t at liberty to blow my cover, lovely. I’m still not . . . but I won’t lose you. ”

  “We’ll have a nice long chat about everything later,” Thorpe cut in. “In fact, we’re going to talk about many things. For now, believe that you’re not going to jail and that you can trust us with your life. Other than that, we’re not saying another word until you’ve showered and eaten. ”

  “Well put,” Sean agreed, slapping Thorpe on the back.

  When had they become the Domination Duo, able to command shivering subs with a single glance? Weirdly, they not only seemed able to tolerate one another, they functioned like a team.

  “Understood?” Thorpe asked.

  Callie gaped at them. She didn’t have any illusions that she’d find the conversation pleasant. She knew it would be pointless. After all, she was accustomed to living alone, running and hiding for her life. The guys were tough, but not cut out for that life.

  “If you want to help, then let me have a car and fifty bucks. You go home and try to figure out who wants me dead. Once that threat is stopped, then . . . ” What? She’d just look them up? In another ten years, they’d probably both be married with kids and wives who wouldn’t appreciate a Callie blast from the past. “Then I’ll be safe. ”

  Sean and Thorpe exchanged a glance. “I appreciate your independence, lovely—to a point. But not when it comes to danger. Until now, you’ve done well keeping yourself safe, but you won’t be doing it alone anymore. ”

  “That’s final. Don’t ever run from us again,” Thorpe added.

  Like she could keep that promise. “A-all right. ”

  “All right, Sir? Isn’t that what you meant?” Thorpe raised a demanding brow. “Not only did your response lack conviction, it was also short on respect. Unacceptable, pet. ”

  Callie cast her gaze down. A thousand thoughts thundered through her head. They’d spent time and money, encountered violence and put themselves on the line to help her. Yes, it was for nothing. They were being stubborn, bossy, foolish, and pig-headed. And she wanted to throttle them. But she also hadn’t thanked them for all they’d tried to do for her, much less shown respect.

  Both flustered and humbled, she looked from Thorpe’s forbidding countenance to Sean’s questioning stare. Easier to start where she could see a little softness. Then she’d figure out how to proceed from there.

  She rose to her knees on the mattress and scooted closer, lifting her arms to Sean. “Thank you. I’ve put you through a lot. I know what you’ve risked. I wish you hadn’t. ”

  He crushed her against him. “I told you why, Callie. I love you. ”

  So easy-breezy for him to just put it out there. She’d never had the luxury of saying those words openly to anyone. They implied the promise of tomorrows she’d never had.

  Callie could only hope that somehow her life wasn’t doomed to end badly. Even if it was, she had his affection and devotion right now. How many years had she spent utterly alone and aching for someone to give a shit about her? Too many to count.

  Was she really going to throw it away? Couldn’t she have them for a day or two? Couldn’t she give Sean the love filling her heart in return? Thorpe the obedience and devotion he deserved?

  “I fell for you at Dominion. ” She cupped Sean’s cheek and met the sincerity of his blue stare, so open. His dashing little smile creased the corners of his eyes and lifted her heart. “I love you, too. ”

  Sean caressed a broad hand down her tangled hair, deepening the connection of their stares. Inside, she could feel him, his caring, his understanding. She’d been lucky when the FBI assigned him to watch over her and had a feeling that he always would if she let him.

  Now for the hard part. Callie only hoped that Sean would understand that her feelings for Thorpe didn’t mean that she cared for him less.

 
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