Theirs to cherish, p.51
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       Theirs to Cherish, p.51
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         Part #8 of Wicked Lovers series by Shayla Black
Page 51

 

  “My next guest is all over the news. Her story of survival and vindication is the talk of the networks, water coolers, and Twitterverse. She’s gracing the cover of next week’s People with her incredible tale. And I’m sure that’s just the beginning for the beautiful Callindra Howe. Welcome. ”

  The camera panned over to her. Thorpe hadn’t thought it possible, but she looked even more beautiful than he remembered. Her eyes were magnetically blue. Her hair hung in touchable, inky waves. Her red lips curled up in a gracious smile. She almost looked happy. Someone who didn’t know her would believe that she was. But Thorpe understood her too well not to see the sadness that haunted her eyes.

  Fuck, his chest tightened again. He drank more water, but the feeling just wouldn’t go away.

  “Thank you for having me on the show. ” Callie’s smile widened as she poised herself for the first question.

  “The last few weeks have been insane for you. ”

  “That’s an understatement. ” She laughed softly. “It’s been a whirlwind, but I’m satisfied now that most of the saga is finally over. ”

  “Indeed. ” The geezer, who was a reputed letch, patted her hand, and Thorpe wanted to reach through the TV and rip his nuts off. “Let’s take a look. ”

  Footage rolled, showing a montage of the events—the murders, her years on the run. Next, the voiceover mentioned her time at Dominion. This was exactly why every time Thorpe left the building, he had to wade through a small sea of reporters. He’d called the police more than once to get them off his property because they were blocking members from entering the club’s door. Idiots.

  Then the clip went on to discuss him and Sean, crediting them with saving her from “dangerous mercenaries” the FBI was still trying to identify. Finally, they played a snippet of her first interview in Las Vegas. Callie looked tired and pale, but somehow glorious. No, complete. She didn’t look like that now.

  That had to be an illusion. Or wishful thinking on his part. She still wore Sean’s collar because she loved him. The fed would always give her everything she needed and more.

  In time, Thorpe knew he’d be an afterthought. If he wasn’t already.

  “Wow, that’s an amazing decade,” the host said. “You’ve survived a great deal. The FBI is still seeking the people who wanted you dead. Any update?”

  “No, but I’m sure they’re hard at work. ”

  “What’s it like to have so many people believe for years that you killed your family?”

  Callie seemed to collect her words. “Crushing. I loved my family. I was prepared to leave them at sixteen, but I never anticipated not seeing them again. To have them gone so suddenly and violently, then hear that the police—along with public opinion—considered me a suspect was devastating. I had a lot of years when it felt like me against the world, but I’m happy that chapter of my life is over. ”

  “And now you’ve been completely exonerated?”

  “Thankfully, yes. ”

  “I heard there’s a book deal in the works. And a TV movie. What can you tell us?”

  “Nothing is final yet. We’ll see if it works out. In the meantime, I’ve been busy cleaning out my childhood home, deciding if I want to sell it. I’m also getting my affairs in order and moving on with my life. ”

  “It’s rumored you’re giving several million dollars of the fortune you’ve inherited to charity,” the host said.

  “I am. I’ve actually started the Cecilia Howe Foundation for Cancer Research. All tests and experiments will be conducted according to the highest standards. No genetic trials will ever be performed. The foundation will be dedicated to curing cancer that affects women, especially ovarian cancer. ”

  “Which your mother died of?”

  “Yes. ”

  “You’re also continuing your father’s scholarship and changing its name to the Daniel A. Howe Fund?”

  She smiled. “The brightest young minds in American business should have the means to attend college. It’s something my father was passionate about. I will always mourn his loss, and that of my sister, but I feel this is a good way to honor him and continue his legacy. ”

  “You’ve also donated your mother’s Imperial Fabergé egg to the Smithsonian. ”

  “It’s fitting. She loved to look at it. I know she’d be proud to have it seen by millions of enthralled people every year. ”

  “Rumor has you romantically linked with Agent Mackenzie. Any comment?”

  She blushed, unconsciously fingering the pretty bit of bling around her neck. “He’s a wonderful man, and I’m very lucky. ”

  “He’ll be joining us shortly, and we’ll get his side of the story. But Mitchell Thorpe is an enigma. He’s declined all interviews and seemingly isn’t interested in the spotlight. ”

  The fondness shining in her eyes was apparent. That all-over mystery pain punched him again. “He’s a very private man with a very big heart. ”

  Thorpe’s pectorals felt so damn taut. His heart stuttered. He struggled to breathe . . . but he feared how much it would hurt if he did.

  “Have you spoken to him since you left Las Vegas?” the host asked.

  Her smile faltered. “No, but he knows how grateful I am to him for all the years of protection and care he gave me. I love him and I always will. ”

  He gripped the arm of his chair until his knuckles turned white. His chest seized up, constricting again. Thorpe wondered if he was having a heart attack.

  Motherfucking son of a bitch.

  He stopped playing the show, shut off the TV, and tossed the remote onto the nearby table. He glanced longingly at a bottle of scotch in the corner, then looked away. He’d gotten completely shitfaced his first night back at Dominion. Everything he’d been avoiding before the first sip was still there the following morning, along with a devil of a hangover.

  He’d walked away from Callie and he knew the reasons why. But damn it, when she said she loved him for all the world to hear . . . How much more proof did he need that she wasn’t like Nara? Or Melissa? And his father had been so fucking wrong. Perverts were capable of more than sex. He knew it now because he loved Callie more than life. How could he be worthy of her if he didn’t try? He’d left her to avoid the pain of losing her, but it already hurt so bad he could barely breathe without aching.

  Thorpe dragged in a lungful of air, and yes, there it was. The agony he’d been dodging, crushing him down like the weight of a steamroller. Every joint ached worse. Every muscle twinged in pain. He felt at least a hundred fucking years old. And hollow on the inside. He missed her so much.

  Gulping water now, trying to wash away the thoughts, he wondered if he’d ever feel like smiling again. Or even like simply breathing. He didn’t expect love or happiness. He’d given any hope of that away.

  Fuck, that scotch really looked good.

  A sharp rap sounded on the door, and he clambered to his feet. “Who the hell is it?”

  “Axel. ”

  Which meant there was a problem on the floor. He cursed. But wouldn’t solving someone else’s problem take his mind off his own? He’d operated that way for twenty years. And maybe, if he was really lucky, he’d get to help Axel crack some skulls.

  Aggression sounded nice about now.

  Thorpe yanked the door open. Axel plowed in—along with a host of other familiar faces. Logan and Hunter Edgington, Xander and Javier Santiago, Tyler Murphy, Deke Trenton, and his business partner, the infamous Jack Cole.

  He knew exactly why they’d come. And it pissed him off.

  “Is there some all-male gangbang I haven’t heard about? You boys will have to play without me. I’m not interested. ”

  Logan looked insulted. “We are not here to fuck your ass, dude. ”

  “Just your mind,” Jack quipped.

  Self-controlled son of a bitch. Jack was happily married with a young son. What did he understand about this situation? Any of them, really? They were all s
ettled. Well, except Axel, and that guy had layers of shit, so his head of security better not be up in his grill.

  “Still not interested. ” Thorpe opened the door wider and gestured them all back into the hall.

  Tyler scoffed. “Nice try. Avoidance didn’t help me when I wanted to worm out of the intervention the wives all sprung on me before Delaney. Damn if they weren’t right, too. So I think you should shut the fuck up and listen. ”

  “Yeah,” Deke piped in. “My cousin Luc had to give me some tough love before I was smart enough to get over myself and marry Kimber. It’s a valuable mental ass kicking every guy should have. Good times . . . ” He looked down the hall and frowned. “Speak of the devil. ”

  Deke stepped aside for Luc Traverson to enter, who held a plate that on any other day would look and smell divine. Since returning to Dominion, everything had tasted like dog shit.

  “Thank you, but I’m not hungry,” Thorpe said politely.

  As if he hadn’t spoken, Luc shoved the plate in his hands and shut the door to Thorpe’s living quarters behind him. “I hunted down what passes for a kitchen here and reheated a veritable masterpiece just for you. Axel said you haven’t eaten a whole meal since you returned. ”

  The platter under his nose held some sort of veal dish with a red wine sauce, roasted sweet potatoes, and glazed carrots. In a restaurant, this dish would be at least fifty bucks, probably more because Traverson made it.

  Thorpe’s stomach revolted. “I’ve already eaten. ”

  “I hate it when people lie. ” Hunter stepped up and took the plate, carrying it to Thorpe’s little bistro table in the corner. “Sit down and eat. ”

  The older Edgington brother may have been a SEAL, but Thorpe didn’t need for anyone to Dom the Dom. “I believe I’ve spoken. You don’t come into my house and tell me what to do. ”

  Logan gave him a shove toward his brother and the plate. “We will for your own good because we’ve all been there. Don’t be a pussy. You said a lot of things I needed to hear before I won Tara back. Now you’re going to listen. ”

  Xander stood beside him with his arms crossed over his chest, his charcoal suit perfectly pressed. Javier had chosen something navy, but the pose was a dead ringer for his younger brother’s. They both looked gravely serious.

  “I’ll have to echo Logan,” Xander said. “Man up. Listening won’t hurt. Much. ”

  “I don’t need advice. Thank you for the effort. ” Thorpe gritted his teeth. “I’m fine. ”

  “You can dish out the good advice but you can’t take it?” Javier challenged with a look that tried to shame him.

  Thorpe snapped.

  “I don’t need advice about anything. I’m goddamn fine! I’m better than fucking fine. Never been happier. Leave me the hell alone!”

  The moment he lost control, he wanted to kick his own ass. He had to get his shit under wraps or he’d give in to that nagging urge he’d been fighting to call Sean and ask if there was any way he could take back every fucking word of good-bye and join them. Callie deserved better than him.

  Thorpe drew in a shuddering breath, forcing a lid back onto his temper.

  Tyler shoved him in the chair. “What a bunch of BS. Fucking eat something. ”

  Hunter held him down and shoved a fork in his hand. “As I said, I don’t like liars. You’re in love with Callie. ”

  “She is Sean Mackenzie’s collared submissive. ” Thorpe pressed his lips tightly together. And he was just waiting for the day he heard about their engagement. It was coming, he knew.

  “Are you trying to bullshit me that you’re not in love with her?” Logan scoffed.

  “I’m simply stating that she no longer lives here and is no longer available. ” He didn’t admit that it was killing him. They didn’t need more ammunition when they were already so close to the bull’s-eye.

  “Don’t give me that façade like everything is fine except for the stick up your ass and the ax in your heart,” Axel complained. “You’re so heavy these days, you’re like a black hole, sucking the life out of yourself and everyone around you. I’ve seen you turn down no less than a dozen subs you’ve played with in the past. If you’re not going to do something about the fact that you love Callie, at least get laid. Dena has been asking about you. I can call her to come release some of the pressure in your valve, man. ”

  The thought of touching any of the women who had come to him and knelt and offered themselves . . . Thorpe hadn’t thought it was possible, but the food smelled even worse. His stomach turned over. He pushed the plate away and stood.

  “Callie loves you,” Luc said. “She’s stated that on TV repeatedly. If there’s anyone who knows what it’s like to be in denial about his feelings, it’s me. I’m lucky Alyssa wanted me enough to put up with my shit. You want to look up tomorrow and find that Callie has moved on?”

 
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