Theirs to cherish, p.50
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       Theirs to Cherish, p.50

         Part #8 of Wicked Lovers series by Shayla Black
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Page 50

 

  The back window on the driver’s side of the car eased down. Out came the gun again. People screamed and dropped to the ground.

  “Floor it!” Sean told Bob. “Get us to that fucking TV station now. ”

  They made a right and left the scene of the accident—and their pursuers—behind. Sean breathed a sigh of relief.

  “We did it!” Bob roared as he cruised down a side street.

  “Is it safe now?” Callie asked under Thorpe.

  “I think. ” Sean tapped Thorpe on the shoulder. “You, ease up. But be prepared, just in case. ”

  Thorpe nodded and lifted away from Callie, but helped her up from the tight wedge of the floorboard, clutching her hand in his and drawing it closer to his chest. She looked so pale, it scared him.

  Sean grabbed her chin. “Breathe, lovely. Don’t pass out on me. ”

  She shook her head and drew in a deep breath. “I’m good. I swear. ”

  He wasn’t convinced, but before he could question her further, Bob was pulling up into a parking lot, past a giant carport, heading for a nondescript off-white building with a big blue News 3 sign jutting from the flat roof. He brought the car to a grinding halt in a reserved spot with a big grin on his face.

  Bouncing against the backseat, Thorpe thrust into his pocket and extracted Bob’s money. Sean grabbed his wrist and counted out half, then gave it to Bob. “Stay here and idling for a few minutes. Once we know it’s safe, one of us will give you the rest. ”

  “Whew! You got it. ” Bob grinned. “That was a rush!”

  Sean just hoped the station would talk to Callie, and he wouldn’t be here for the cabbie’s adrenaline crash. He opened the door and leapt out, reaching for Callie. She piled out, and Thorpe followed. All together, they ran for the doors. A security guard stopped them immediately inside the cool white linoleum lobby.

  “Do you have an appointment?” the cop-in-a-box asked.

  “We’d like to see whoever is in charge of the news,” Callie said with her sweetest smile.

  The thirtysomething guy looked at her like he’d rather ask her out than turn her down, but he still shook his head. “The news director is a busy man. You’ll have to make an appointment and come back. ”

  “We will give him the biggest news story of his career. ”

  “He’s heard that before and—”

  “Put him on the phone with me,” Callie pleaded earnestly. “I’ll convince him. ”

  “I’ve got strict orders not to disturb him. ”

  Sean had reached his limit and fished out his badge. “FBI. He’ll see us. ”

  The security guard stepped back, looking from him, then to Callie, before scoping out Thorpe. Finally, his gaze settled on the glinting shield in Sean’s hand.

  “I’ll call him,” the guard said.

  “Thank you for your cooperation. ” Sean wondered if the man heard the irony in his tone.

  Less than a minute later, the news director appeared. A portly man with a shock of gray hair, he had a weathered look that said he’d not only seen decades’ worth of news, but lived it.

  “Roger Coachman. ” The man thrust out his hand at Sean. “What can I do for you?”

  “It’s what you can do for her. ” He gestured to Callie.

  The news director turned his attention to her with a practiced smile, looking a bit impatient.

  “I’m sure you’re busy, so I’ll get to the point. Is there somewhere we can talk privately? I think I have a story that will interest you. ”

  “Sure. We can talk in my office. ”

  As Coachman led them toward the secure area of the building, Sean turned back to the security guard. “You never saw us. ”

  The man nodded, his expression a bit like a child denied a treat. Clearly, he was curious about Callie and her story. He’d find out soon enough if this went well.

  The man escorted them down some halls. People in suits bustled about. An older blonde wearing a headset paced, brushed past them like she was on a mission. In the distance, a phone pealed with a loud ring.

  As soon as the news director led them into his office, Callie sat in one of the chairs opposite his desk. Sean sat beside her, while Thorpe closed the door and lounged against the wall behind them.

  “So, young lady, you have a story? I can’t promise that I’ll put it on the news, but I’ll listen. ”

  Only because Sean had flashed a badge, and that annoyed him. He understood the guy probably saw crackpots, but . . .

  “No, you’ll put me on in the next five minutes, or I’ll be forced to take the story elsewhere. ”

  Coachman laughed. “I can’t do that. We’re on network feed from New York for another few hours. We only get short breaks for local traffic and weather every so often. ”

  Callie shook her head. “Call the network. They’ll want this story, too. Everyone will. ”

  “Does your dog talk or something?” he asked, his tone a bit patronizing. “Did the mold in your bathroom tub grow into the shape of the Virgin Mary, Miss . . . ”

  She stood. “If you’re not even going to listen to me or try to take me seriously, I won’t bother you anymore. Remember that I tried to give you a story that will put you on the map internationally as a hard-hitting journalist. ”

  As Callie started for the door, Sean grabbed her wrist, wondering again if she was out of her mind. The street was too dangerous until this story broke.

  She whirled on him and flashed him a sharp stare, but he couldn’t mistake the calculating gleam in her eye. Thorpe grinned.

  “No. Please sit,” Coachman invited. “Sorry, but you have to understand how often I hear that someone has an important story, and it’s usually nothing newsworthy. ”

  Callie played reluctant before she settled back into her seat. “This should be a top headline across the country, maybe even the world. Promise me you’ll call the network if I’ve sufficiently piqued your interest and get us on ASAP. ”

  He shrugged his big, soft shoulders, rustling his navy coat. “Sure. If they’ll take it. ”

  She simply smiled. “Thank you. They will. Now let’s get down to business, Mr. Coachman. I’m Callindra Howe and I can prove it. I can also prove that I didn’t kill my father. ”

  The news director’s bushy gray brows rose and he leaned forward, elbow braced against his desk. His jaw looked like it might hit there as well. “You . . . You’re . . . Wow. Okay, I’m listening. ”

  Quite intently, too. Sean watched the man’s reaction with satisfaction.

  Flashing the older man a winning smile, Callie dug into her backpack and pulled out her mother’s Fabergé egg.

  ***

  LESS than ten minutes later, Callie shooed away the hair and makeup artist hovering around her. Predictably, the network had gobbled up her story. Coachman stared at her like she was a cross between a ghost and a mega celebrity. The local morning news anchor trembled and fumbled with his papers. His slightly terrified expression hinted that he might pee his pants.

  She shared his nerves. The next ten minutes would determine if she could be herself again and finally start living. If everything went well during this interview, she’d get to share her tomorrows with a wonderful man she loved. As they did a last-minute camera check, Callie smiled at Sean. He gave her an encouraging nod. Thorpe stood beside Sean, looking both stony and proud.

  Damn it all, she was going to miss him.

  “Ms. Howe, can I get you anything?” Coachman’s assistant asked, staring. “Coffee? Tea? Water?”

  “No, thank you. ”

  “So you’ve been on the run for almost ten years,” the anchor said. “What was that like?”

  Terrible. Scary. Frustrating. But in an odd way, a blessing. She would never have grown this much spine or met these two wonderful men otherwise. “As soon as we go on air, I’ll tell you. ”

  The station returned from commercial, and the network anchor in New York had been patched th
rough, just waiting for them to go live with the breaking story. Callie drew in a deep breath as they finished the last of the audio checks. Finally, the director cued them on air.

  And the questions began from the national anchor. She recounted being shot at, then betrayed by Holden, skipping towns, finding a safe haven in Dallas with Thorpe, then running from Agent Mackenzie, only for the two of them to find her again and help her discover the evidence she needed to go public.

  “I owe them my life,” she said softly. “I share a very special bond with them both. ”

  Let everyone read between the lines. They’d dig and find out that she’d lived in a fet club and fallen for its Dungeon Master. They’d probably even uncover that she wore Sean’s collar. Hell, she was wearing it now. Fingering it with a faint smile, she didn’t care what anyone else thought. They’d judge, regardless of what she said or did. But she knew what was in her heart. The most important thing was exposing what the monsters had done to her family and clearing her name from anything criminal. Last time she checked, being in love with two men wasn’t a crime.

  “I wouldn’t be standing here without the two of them,” she elaborated. “I’ll always be grateful. ”

  Finally, they cut away. The news director was jumping up and down that every network in the country had just picked up the interview, along with a few overseas. The morning anchor sat, blinking in astonishment at her story. Now that she’d recounted everything, Callie couldn’t believe that she had actually lived through it all.

  It was over. The secret James Whitney and his mercenary brethren had fought to keep was out, along with the news that her father had burned all the research the criminals had sought. Hopefully, when the media circus died down, she could finally be herself and live.

  Coachman approached her, still practically dancing a jig. “The network wants to fly you out to New York to continue the interview there with Matt Lauer tomorrow and—”

  Thorpe cut the news director off with an intimidating stare. Coachman stepped back.

  After working his way directly in front of her, Thorpe cupped her cheek, those gray eyes of his focused on her with such approval.

  “You’re a remarkably strong woman. You handled that perfectly. I’m so proud of you, pet. ”

  His words warmed her. But his voice rang suspiciously with farewell.

  “Mitchell—”

  Sean appeared beside her next, then drew her tight against his chest. “You answered every question with such grace and poise, lovely. Brilliant plan. You’re safe to be Callindra Howe again. ” Then he whispered in her ear. “But you’ll always be my Callie. ”

  When she looked up to smile at him, she noticed that Thorpe no longer occupied the room. She searched every corner with her frantic gaze. He was gone.

  Before she could do more than open her mouth in disbelief and feel the tears prick her eyes, Coachman cut in again. “Ms. Howe, New York? The network needs to make arrangements. What time would you like to fly out today?”

  “Um, sir,” Coachman’s assistant popped her head into the studio, looking somewhere between apologetic and worried. “The FBI is here to take Ms. Howe in for questioning. ”

  Chapter Twenty-one

  THORPE stared out the window overlooking Dominion’s dungeon at the Friday night crowd diving into their play with gusto. With a critical eye, he surveyed the stations, the dungeon monitors making the rounds, the mood on the floor.

  Satisfied everything was well under control, he locked up his observation room and headed downstairs into the secure area of the building. With a silent sigh, he returned to his apartment in the back and flipped on the TV, grabbing a fresh bottle of water. He should probably remove his suit, take a shower, and try to get some sleep.

  Every time he closed his eyes, all he saw was Callie’s face, her sparkling eyes, her lush mouth. Her “I love yous” echoed in his head.

  Exhaustion weighed on him. He’d tried to resume a normal life since returning to Dominion. But the lump in his throat when he thought of her never quite went away. His eyes constantly stung. For the last three weeks, he’d been wracked with a vague but constant pain that debilitated his whole body.

  Not surprising when he felt as if half of himself was missing.

  Thorpe took a sip of water and tried to force the liquid down to drown the ache. That didn’t work. That persistent tightness in his chest constricted even more. Why the fuck couldn’t he take a deep breath?

  Easing down into an overstuffed chair, he cued up his DVR. A mountain of news programs took up all the space on the device. He chose the most recent show, one he’d taped yesterday. The one that torqued his pain the most. Thorpe had never considered himself a masochist, but apparently he’d been wrong. He’d already watched this show half a dozen times.

  The host introduced himself and vomited at the mouth about a bunch of political shit Thorpe couldn’t care less about. He had several windbag guests he called pundits, each less significant than the last. They shouted at one another, full of self-importance. Thorpe stifled his impatience as he fast-forwarded past it all and finally arrived at the segment he sought.

 

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