Theirs to cherish, p.53
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       Theirs to Cherish, p.53

         Part #8 of Wicked Lovers series by Shayla Black
Page 53


  “Where is she?” Thorpe asked. “I want to see her. ” Desperately. Right now.

  “At home. I didn’t want to bring her here or get her hopes up unless I knew that . . . ”

  “I’d pulled my head out of my ass?”

  “Something like that,” Sean admitted. “For now, we’ve rented a quiet little house near Highland Park. She’s there now, probably in bed reading. She likes that. ”

  “She always has. ” Thorpe smiled fondly. Then worry set in. “Where does she think you are?”

  “Work. I rushed out the door after I got a few calls. ”

  “From Axel?”

  “The first one came from Logan to ask if I’d come. Axel rang next with details. Luc called to ask what you like to eat. Jack called to ask me a series of questions that told me he’s a scary-smart bastard. You have some interesting friends. ”

  Thorpe smiled. He did. He’d have to thank them, too. Eating crow would suck, but they’d been right.

  Now that he was determined to be with Callie, a vital question stomped across his brain. “I have to know, have you already put a ring on her finger?”

  “No. It’s been a whirlwind for weeks, running from one interview to the next, dealing with her estate, moving into a new place. We’re finally home for a few days, so . . . ” Sean shrugged.

  Which meant that Sean intended to propose.

  “What if . . . I married her?” When Sean opened his mouth, Thorpe’s stomach tightened. “Just hear me out. ” He paced for a silent moment, then turned back. “You’ve already collared her. That’s sacred. I would never try to impede on that bond. But since you’ve got that claim on her, I have no other way to call her mine. ”

  Sean said nothing for a very long minute. “Are you thinking of not sharing in her submission?”

  The idea was like a stab in the gut. He would take Callie however he got her, but he was a Dominant through and through. Never having her kneel or call him her Sir, not really having the authority to punish or praise her except in the most vanilla ways . . . “I want her submission more than anything. ”

  “That’s what I suspected. Have you ever thought about claiming her before?”

  Sean was so unflinchingly honest and unafraid. Thorpe knew he had to be the same. “A little more than two years ago, before I knew who she really was, I was mad for her. Completely smitten. I bought this. ”

  He turned away to his bedroom, gesturing for Sean to follow. Inside his closet, he shoved clothes aside to reveal a safe. A few turns of the dial and he was holding a black velvet box. He handed it to Sean. “Open it. ”

  The lid opened in soft silence. Sean’s eyes fell to the contents and widened. “It’s beautiful. It suits her. ”

  “That’s why I bought it. I have a jeweler friend, and when I told her I’d been looking for the right something for Callie, she showed this to me. I couldn’t not buy it. ” He sighed. “I realized Callie’s identity two weeks later and tried to tell myself it was for the best. ”

  “Why didn’t you return it?”

  Thorpe had asked himself that question a million times. “I couldn’t bring myself to. In my head, it was made for her. ”

  “It had to have cost you a fortune. ”

  He laughed. “It did. And at the time, I just didn’t care. She was worth every penny. ”

  “I understand completely. If you want to see Callie now, bring that with you and be prepared to use it. I’ve got an idea. ”


  CALLIE looked at the clock again. After eleven. She frowned. If Sean wasn’t assigned to another case, whatever happened tonight had to be about hers. Gawd, she hoped that Whitney and his cronies hadn’t cut short their Mexican vacation to come back and finish murdering her for the hell of it.

  Not that Sean had left her unprotected. She more than suspected that he’d hired bodyguards to watch the house day and night. Maybe it should bother the independent woman in her, but he cared about her safety. So even though she’d learned to take care of herself, his precautions made her a little warm and fuzzy.

  She focused on her e-reader again, doing her best to lose herself in a cozy mystery. It was either that or wish Sean was home. And miss Thorpe some more.

  Sighing, Callie looked out the massive French doors in the master bedroom, over the expansive backyard. Dominion was out there, only twelve point two miles away—she’d mapped it out—but the distance might as well be a whole universe. Thorpe was gone. He wasn’t over his past and he wasn’t coming back. Callie wanted to be angry, but she was mostly sad as hell.

  Her saving grace had been Sean. His love, his reassurance, his laughter were all balms to her pain. Despite their travel and hectic schedule lately, he never missed an opportunity to make love to her. His touch—frequent and adoring—always made her feel like the center of the universe. Sometimes, she couldn’t help but wonder if he was trying to fill the gap left by Thorpe’s absence. How did she tell him that he already filled half of her so perfectly that just being next to him sometimes made her cry because she was so blessed? She didn’t expect him to fill the other half of her left bleeding and empty when Thorpe had gone. Her former boss and protector couldn’t fill Sean’s half, either. Neither was a substitute for the other.

  She simply loved them both.

  Pointless thoughts. Callie tossed the e-reader down and rose, her short black nightie swishing around her thighs.

  Across the house, she heard the sound of the garage door opening, the chime of the alarm, the door shutting, the rattle of keys, the sounds of footsteps. She smiled.

  Sean appeared a few seconds later, his face unreadable. He crossed the floor directly to her, took her face in his hands, and pressed a rapt kiss on her mouth. With a moan, she melted into him. Now he would take her in his arms and strip off the scrap of silk covering her. He would show her his devotion and she would give it back, opening her heart even wider to him.

  Instead, he stepped away. “Kneel for me, lovely. ”

  Oh, he was in that mood. They hadn’t engaged in any BDSM play since the houseboat. Now that the possibility was in front of her, she realized how badly she’d missed it. Itched for it. Needed to feel as if she could put herself in the hands of the man she loved, knowing he would push her to her limits, yet trusting him utterly not to break her.

  “Yes, Sir. ” She fell to her knees at his feet, bowed her head, and waited breathlessly. Her body began to bloom with anticipation.

  Without a word, he bent to her. She heard a little click, and the wire of white gold lifted from around her neck.

  He had uncollared her?

  Callie gasped and looked up at Sean with horror. “W-what have I done? How have I not made you happy?”

  Sean crouched in front of her and smoothed a hand against her cheek. He held her heart in his hands. He was breaking her in two, and yet he looked so excited. If he left her . . . No! Her chest was already splitting open at the thought.

  “You make me very happy. It’s a different claim I want on you now. ” He pulled a little velvet box from his pants, and her crushing pain transformed into astonished joy. “Callindra Alexis Howe, will you marry me? God knows I’ve loved you from the beginning, and I can’t imagine spending much longer without making you my wife. Please say yes. ”

  As he stood and helped her to her feet, Callie teared up. She threw herself into his arms, gripping him so tightly, overwhelmed when he held her with the same intensity. Tears fell so swiftly as her heart overflowed. She pulled back and, through her watery gaze, stared into his eyes. She wanted him to know how much she meant this.

  “I love you. I don’t know if you’ll ever understand how much, but I’ll do my best to show you every day. Yes!”

  Sean pulled her in and gripped her close again, and she clung for dear life, celebrating what would be now that they’d be husband and wife, what could be once they started a family. And mourning what could never be without Thorpe.

Callie dug her fingers into Sean. She had to stop that. Thorpe could not be the specter between them. He’d made it clear that he didn’t want her, and she had to exorcise him. She’d ached for family, belonging, and happiness since her father and sister had been murdered. Eventually the people responsible would get their justice. But she wouldn’t forfeit the love she shared with Sean now and forever to pine for a man who wouldn’t share his heart.

  Gently, Sean pulled back, peppering her face with soft, sweet kisses. Then he opened the box. Callie clapped a hand over her lips, overjoyed at the beauty of the ring—and the moment.

  A lovely round center stone winked up at her, surrounded by a circle of smaller diamonds. The band was covered in the same delicate stones. It wasn’t extravagant. It wasn’t anything like the giant rock her father had given her mother—and she was glad. What Sean had given her was absolutely perfect and what she would have picked herself.

  The poignant beauty of the event only felt more complete when he slipped the ring on her finger.

  “I’m going to make you happy,” she whispered, smiling through her tears.

  “I know. I’ll do everything I can to make you happy, too, lovely. ” He stole another soft kiss. “I always will. ”

  She knew that. Her neck felt naked without his mark of possession there. That didn’t make her happy at all. “I could still wear your collar too, you know. ”

  He shook his head. “It’s not how I wanted to make you mine. I first put it on you under false pretenses. You first accepted it for the wrong reasons. This”—he thumbed her engagement ring—“is for us. For the right reasons. I’m going to cherish you always. Besides, something else needs to go around your neck. ”

  Sean caressed her cheek, then walked past her, settling himself in the big club chair in the corner. What the hell was he talking about?


  The deep voice that haunted her now rang in her head. She had to be hallucinating. But when she zipped around, Callie knew she wasn’t hearing things.

  “Thorpe?” He stood there, fatigued and distinctly nervous, but as commanding as ever with his feet spread, his hands behind his back. His gray eyes penetrated her, reaching all the way to her heart with one glance.

  He raised a brow at her. “That address will do for now. Kneel for me. ”

  She whipped her gaze over to Sean, who didn’t say a word. He merely watched in silence.

  “You brought him here?” she asked.

  “We’ve talked. He asked to see you,” her fiancé said.

  To apologize? To make some stupid amends? For sex? She turned back to Thorpe, blinking in confusion.

  “You’re not kneeling yet, pet. ” He stared expectantly at the floor, then back to her. Everything about his demeanor said that he expected to be obeyed.

  “I think you should do as he asks, lovely. ” Sean wore a faint smile.

  Their byplay reminded her of Las Vegas. They were on the same page of some agenda she didn’t quite grasp. But she’d loved the results then. Despite the danger surrounding her at the time, Callie had never been happier.

  She sank to her knees, the plush carpet cushioning her. She risked a glance up at Thorpe’s face. His expression softened.

  He caressed the crown of her head, and the touch electrified her, radiating down her spine. She’d never imagined that she would ever see him again, much less be this close. The tears of joy that had assailed her during Sean’s proposal returned. Her fiancé would never have brought Thorpe here if he intended to break her heart again.

  Smiling, she bowed her head. “Sir?”

  “That’s closer to the form of address I’d like to hear, Callie. But I want you to call me something far more important. ” He cradled her chin in his hand and lifted it to him. “I want to be your Master. I desire you to be my one and only pet. ”

  He brought his other hand in front of his body, gripping an oblong black box.

  Callie blinked. His face was tempered with unmistakable affection and devotion. Her heart skittered, then began to pound.

  Were all her dreams really coming true?

  “I’m sure you have questions for me,” he murmured. “And you have every right to them. Let me see if I can answer them for you. ”

  “Please. ” She could barely choke the word out past the emotion constricting her throat.

  “I was an ass for leaving you. Stupid. Logan called me something less complimentary, and he was right. I’ve never felt so complete as when I’m with you. You fulfill all my Dominant needs when you submit . . . and you’re just bratty enough to be a challenge. I can’t live without you anymore. Please don’t make me try. If you say yes, I will treat your submission with the utmost care. I will push your limits and keep you safe, while giving you the discipline you need and the affection you deserve. There will never be another for me, and I will never leave you again. I hope you’ll consent to wear my collar and call me Master with pride. ”

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