Theirs to cherish, p.31
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       Theirs to Cherish, p.31

         Part #8 of Wicked Lovers series by Shayla Black
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Page 31

 

  She drew in a shaky breath and turned to Thorpe, already searching for the words to tell him how grateful she was for all he’d done and somehow confess everything he meant to her. Before she could unscramble her thoughts, Thorpe zipped around and strode out the door, shutting it with careful quiet behind him.

  Chapter Thirteen

  CALLIE’S heart dropped in a sickening fall. Guilt flayed her again. Damn it, she hadn’t meant to hurt Thorpe’s feelings.

  “I need to . . . ” What? Apologize to Sean for also being in love with Thorpe? Say she was sorry for moving beyond carrying an unrequited torch for her protector? Sean didn’t want to hear her pour out her feelings for Thorpe any more than her former boss wanted to hear her wax poetic about the fed she’d once called her Dom. Could this get any more complicated? “I didn’t mean to make him uncomfortable. ”

  “You didn’t. Thorpe is just beating himself up. He wants to tell you that he loves you, too. But he’s afraid. ”

  Those words stunned her. Presumably, Sean had spoken in English, but it might as well have been Greek. How would he know anything about Thorpe’s feelings? Why would he care? And how did he have it so wrong?

  “No. ” Callie stepped back, shaking her head. “Thorpe doesn’t love me like that. ”

  “He does, exactly as I do. Like a man loves a woman. He’s got a hang-up or two, I gather, but he loves you. Just like you love him. ”

  With a little gasp, she blinked up at him, struggling to find words beyond her shock. He’d figured that out and he wasn’t furious? “Oh, Sean. I’m so sorry if I’ve hurt you. I don’t know what to say. I—”

  “You can’t apologize for your heart. ” He kissed her forehead. “I’ve known that you love us both for a while. So has he. Would I enjoy having you to myself? Of course. But I’ve asked myself long and hard what you need. Thorpe gives you something I can’t. ”

  She clung to him, grabbing his arms. “But you give me things he doesn’t. I don’t want to lose—”

  “I know, lovely. You won’t. What sort of man would I be if I put my own anxiety and jealousy above your fulfillment?”

  Callie stared up at him in wonder, blinking through a sheen of tears. “You amaze me. ”

  He gave her a sad smile. “The world hasn’t shown you a lot of kindness, so you don’t expect it in others. You’ve had so much taken from you. If I have to bend my pride to be the one to finally make you whole, I’ll be fine. ”

  A sudden thump sounded just outside their insulated little galley, and they both turned to see Thorpe shaking his hand . . . like he’d just punched the wall and hurt his knuckles.

  Her heart ached for him, but he’d walled himself off from her. He’d always been an island, never quite letting others close. She couldn’t help him if he wouldn’t let her behind his defenses.

  “I think he’s been worried that you’ll leave him, Callie. You wouldn’t be the first woman to do it. And he seems to believe that he’s a bit too old and rough around the edges for you. He just needs a little reassurance. You’ll have to give it to him. ”

  Callie blinked up at Sean, who smiled softly. Was he for real?

  “You won’t feel betrayed?”

  “What good would it do me?” He shrugged. “Having two of us to protect you makes sense. If I force you to choose between us, not only could I lose you altogether, but I think you’d only be halfway happy. I never thought it possible for someone to love two people at once, but when I see you with us, I know you sincerely do. Not sure yet how everything will work in the ‘real’ world, but let’s get you past this danger and we’ll see. ”

  Her heart nearly burst open. Callie hadn’t thought she could love Sean even more. But she’d been wrong. She tightened her arms around him. “How do you understand me so well?”

  He chuckled and cupped her cheek. “I’ve been studying you for a year now. You’ve been my life. And maybe my obsession a wee bit. From the start, I wanted to be jealous of your connection with Thorpe, and maybe I should be. But I’ve seen how, when he and I work together, we balance one another to make your world right. I think that will make us both happier in turn. ”

  Callie teared up again. “I don’t know how to thank you for being so wonderful and—”

  “You can start with a shower. ” Sean grimaced. “Get that God-awful inch of makeup off your face. Have Thorpe help you. Tell him to be sure you get nice and clean. Then . . . we’ll see what happens. Just don’t take no for an answer. ” With a wink, he turned her, smacked her ass, and sent her in the other man’s direction. “Go. ”

  ***

  THORPE couldn’t stop the jealousy rolling through him like an ugly black cloud. It wasn’t because she loved Sean. He’d known that. And he could actually admit that the fed was not only a decent guy, but good for her.

  What made him resentful as hell was that he couldn’t be that open with her about his feelings. Not once in three years of marriage had he been able to tell Melissa that he loved her. It wasn’t like he didn’t know why.

  He sighed. A tenderhearted girl like Callie would need that reassurance. He didn’t have it in him. Sean had given him the green light to fuck her, so Thorpe would damn well take advantage of that golden opportunity whenever possible. But it couldn’t lead anywhere.

  All too soon, he’d be forty, and she’d barely be through her mid-twenties. Sean suited her better from an age perspective. Callie looked happy with the other man. Because she meant everything to him, Thorpe refused to burden her with his bottled-up heart. When they untangled her from the mess that had ripped her world apart for years, he would quietly support Sean and fade into the background.

  But he’d never stop loving her.

  When Callie approached him on deck, the wind whipping her dark hair around her shoulders, he closed his eyes. Looking at her and knowing that he’d already lost her was killing him.

  “Mitchell?” She touched a hand to his arm.

  No one ever called him that . . . except her, except when her mood was soft. The sound of his name on her lips was like a siren song. Her sweet caress clutched his heart and sent desire sizzling up his arm, streaking under his skin.

  “What?” he barked more than he meant to.

  Callie opened her mouth, then snapped it shut. “Thank you for helping me. I wish for your sake that you hadn’t, but it means the world that you’d risk so much for me. Now I’ll make you happy and leave you alone. ”

  Like hell. He grabbed her wrist before she could get away. “Where are you going?”

  “Well, since Bora Bora is out of the question right now, Sean wants me to take a shower. He had some strange notion that you needed to supervise me and make sure I got squeaky clean, but I’ve been bathing myself for a long time. You don’t have to bother. I’ll manage. ”

  Callie tugged free and turned away. She hadn’t spared any words of love or affection for him. No surprise. He hadn’t done anything to engender them. Still, as Callie eased through the door and into the galley again, it fucking hurt to watch her walk away. He should protect her and strictly limit their interaction to punishment and sex. It wouldn’t be easy, but better for her. Less terrible when she paired off with Sean for good and shattered his heart.

  But right now, her attitude needed to come down about ten notches. Sean had kept him around for a reason. Might as well start earning his privileges.

  Inside the galley, Callie and Sean exchanged a few words. She gesticulated in agitation. The fed raised a brow, then stared at him out the window. A moment later, the girl rolled her eyes and stomped down the narrow passage toward the bedroom.

  Insolent little brat. Thorpe stooped through the door and marched after her.

  “I’ve got her,” he assured Sean. “She’ll fucking shine by the time she steps out of the shower. ”

  “Good. We still owe her a lot of punishment, along with a thorough interrogation . . . which will probably lead to more punishment. I don’t want a
ny trace of Glitter Girls on her or it will just piss me off more. ”

  Since he could still picture her onstage, wearing next to nothing and wiggling her ass in the face of a guy who looked like the poster boy for pimpdom, Thorpe couldn’t disagree. “Same here. ”

  “Good. While you take care of that, I’ll finish cooking. Then . . . it’s on. ”

  Absofuckinglutely.

  Thorpe strode down the hall, into the first bedroom and its adjoining bath. He found Callie staring in the mirror in the tiny bathroom, peeling off false eyelashes.

  “You didn’t wait for me to bring you to the shower. ”

  She turned to him and raised her chin. “I know where it is. And your ‘fuck off’ demeanor didn’t exactly invite company. ”

  “You’ve got thirty seconds alone to empty your bladder before your shower. After that, I’m coming in. ”

  Callie rolled her eyes. “Why? I won’t run again. Where would I go?”

  Maybe not, but after her Houdini-like escape from Dominion, followed by his nearly three sleepless days of frantic searching for her, Thorpe wasn’t inclined to let her out of his sight. Besides, Sean had given him this duty, and he wasn’t giving up the chance to look at her naked. “Good to hear. I’m not budging. ”

  “I can shower alone. ”

  “But you’re not going to. ” He glanced at his watch. “Go. Clock’s ticking. ”

  “Ugh . . . ” She sighed and closed the door in his face. Near the thirty-second mark, he heard the toilet flush and she yanked the little door open. “Happy?”

  “Do I seem thrilled, pet? In the past few days, I’ve had almost no sleep or food, and I’m running thin on patience, too. Don’t test me. ”

  And his bad mood was exacerbated by how ratcheted up he felt. He’d gone to sleep thinking about the moment he could finally slide his bare skin over hers before plunging his cock into her tempting pink pussy and at least pretend that she belonged to him. He’d awakened thinking exactly the same thing. Unless he wanted to torture the fuck out of himself, he’d better quit that line of thinking.

  Dismissing that from his mind only left him with the nagging worry about the danger lurking around every unseen corner. It all gnawed at his composure.

  “Sorry,” she murmured, casting her gaze to her toes. “Sir. ”

  “Shower,” he barked.

  Callie hesitated. “One question. ”

  He crossed his arms over his chest. The last damn thing he wanted was a dialogue. Dangerous ground. But he must have a secret masochistic streak. In his book, some contact with Callie was better than none.

  “What?”

  “Sean has made it very clear why he’s gone out on a limb to help me. But you’ve done so much for me for years. You’ve said that you want me, but . . . ”

  “Fishing to find out how I feel? After running away from me without a word?” After she’d told Sean that she loved him while he had to listen? “We’ve always been friends—”

  “You said last night that we were more. ”

  A tactical error on his part. His blood had been rushing at the thought of having her in his grasp again, sprawled across his lap for his discipline. Why hadn’t he kept his damn mouth shut?

  “Leave it alone, Callie. Shower before Sean finishes your breakfast and it gets cold. ”

  “I love you,” she choked, her stare all but imploring. “That’s hard for me to say. ”

  His heart stopped. Joy, hope, love all flooded in—until reality crashed back. He would never be the tender lover she needed and deserved. And Callie was young. She might think that she loved him now, but in a dozen years? He’d be able to join AARP, and she’d still be able to bear children. They would never work. And that was just one of their problems. Someday, she’d realize he wasn’t a good fit for her and leave. If he didn’t stunt things between them now, it would hurt far worse later.

  “You’ve had plenty of practice with Sean,” he shot back.

  Her chin trembled as she raised it and crossed her arms over her chest. “Why do you always make me feel like some urchin tugging after you for your affection?”

  “You have a Dom, Callie. What I feel doesn’t matter. ”

  “Isn’t that convenient for you? That way, you don’t have to admit that I mean something to you beyond a friend. But you wouldn’t go this far out on a limb for me unless I meant more, despite what you’ve claimed in the past. Every time you’ve kissed me, it wasn’t like a platonic pal. And that certainly wasn’t how it felt when you spanked me or put your tongue on my—”

  “What do you want from me?” he growled.

  “The truth. ”

  He pressed his lips in a grim line as he struggled to restrain the urge to grab her and snarl out his love while he filled her cunt full of every hard inch he ached to give her. “This is not open for discussion. Shower. Now. ”

 
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