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After managing to separate Callie from Sean, Thorpe talks to her alone. Will the feelings simmering between them draw them together, will Sean come between them, or will she slip away from them both for good?
Callie paced in her little red robe, her manic gait taking her from one side of the room to the other. Goddamn it, she wasn’t wearing a bra. He’d bet she hadn’t bothered with panties, either.
Most notably, she’d stripped off her collar and was clutching it in a tight grasp. His heart stuttered. Was she removing it for good?
As Thorpe cleared his throat, he tamped down encroaching relief and told himself to take things one step at a time.
She turned to spear him with a resolute stare. “You said you wanted to know when I’m leaving. It’s now. I quit.”
CALLIE stared at Thorpe. He had almost no reaction to her words.
Gee, it would have been nice if you’d given a shit. Then she squashed the thought. It wasn’t his fault that she cared far more about him than he did for her. She’d known for years that Thorpe had the power to yank her heart out of her chest and crush it beneath his very expensive Salvatore Ferragamo loafers. It sucked that she’d been stupid enough to let him.
Even though she cared deeply for Sean and—if she could believe his passionate declaration—he loved her, that didn’t mitigate her attachment to Dominion’s owner. She’d always been a little screwed up. This just proved it.
Thorpe wandered farther into the room and sat on the edge of the bed. “I appreciate the notice, but I need a bit longer than ten minutes to replace you, pet.”
“Sorry.” She tossed her hair over her shoulder and stared out the dark window. He was far too beautiful to look at. “You’ll find someone else soon. You won’t miss me.”
“You have no idea how I’ll feel. Sit down, Callie.”
His tone told her that no wasn’t an acceptable answer. Damn it, he intended to interrogate her about Sean. Callie couldn’t take it now. Leaving them both was hard enough . . .
She fought down panic and turned back to him. “I can’t. I have to get away.”
“Not yet.” He pointed to a spot on the bed right beside him and didn’t say a word until she flopped down. “Good. Sean knows I’ve come and that I intend to understand what happened tonight. Tell me everything.”
If Thorpe was here with Sean’s blessing, she wasn’t going to worm out of this conversation, damn it.
As she set Sean’s collar down on her nightstand, Callie mentally sorted through everything she could tell him. He must know that she had feelings for her Sir. More feelings than she was comfortable with. Thorpe missed very little, so he was no doubt aware that Sean had never taken her past her limits, ignored her safe word, or acted in any way out of line. Besides, if she was going to skip out on Thorpe after he’d kept a roof over her and ensured her safety for four years, she owed him more than a flat-out lie.
Wringing her hands, she forced herself to meet his intent gray gaze and confessed something else that had been niggling in the back of her brain. “Something is . . . off about him.”
That clearly piqued Thorpe’s interest. “In what way?”
Callie tapped her toes. She had to express her concerns about Sean without giving her past away. Putting Thorpe in the terrible position of harboring a known fugitive wasn’t how she wanted to repay his kindness.
“He asks a lot of questions. I don’t like them.”
Thorpe sent her a wry smile. “If it’s about your limits, that’s to be expected. Pet, he’s a Dom. It’s his job to get in your head. Frankly, you need some untangling. You might find it uncomfortable—”
“He doesn’t need to know how many brothers and sisters I have, the name of my first pet, if I ever took special trips as a child . . . He seems really focused on things that shouldn’t matter if all he wants is a sub in a club.”
It was nothing Thorpe did or any change in his expression, but Callie had the distinct impression that he was enraged. “Has he always behaved this way with you?”
“You should have told me the first time,” Thorpe scolded.
“It’s not your problem.”
That only made him more forbidding. “You’re always my concern, Callie.”
The possession in his voice excited her more than she wanted to admit. “Well, I’m telling you now. What he wants to know seems weird.”
“Just like it’s weird that he walked into Dominion and immediately had some sort of hard-on for me.”
“That’s not weird. That makes him a man.”
She rolled her eyes. “There are plenty of other subs here.”
“None of them are you.”
Damn it, sometimes Thorpe could—after weeks of being a giant pain in her ass—say the nicest things. She teared up. Gawd, she was really going to miss him.
“But . . .” he went on. “I don’t like the questions he’s asking you, either. I don’t see how they’re relevant to helping you down your submissive path.”
“Exactly. The other thing is . . . In almost every other way, he’s too good to be true.”
“No.” But something wasn’t quite right. “I’m not sure what to make of him, though.”
Because if Sean was a cop, a bounty hunter, or an assassin, wouldn’t he have either dragged her in or done her in by now?
“What did he say to you tonight that made you want to run away from him?”
Oh. Ouch. Yeah, she needed to remember that Thorpe never hesitated to go for the jugular.
“Nothing he meant to be threatening or scary.”
“Good to know. Be more specific.” Thorpe’s tone sharpened.
“It’s . . . personal.”
“Dodging my question isn’t an option, pet.” That warning note in his voice made her shiver. “I’d rather not see you leave over whatever drivel he spewed. Tell me. Maybe I can fix the situation.”
It was embarrassing enough that he’d probably seen her and Sean having sex. He’d been so close, he couldn’t have missed their climatic finish. “You didn’t hear?”
“Callie, I’m not getting through to you, so let me be plain. You will tell me now or I will paddle your pretty little ass.”
“You can’t do that!”
His smile contradicted her. “I’ve informed Sean that it’s a distinct possibility. Besides, you’ve taken off his collar. If you think he’s being less than honest, you don’t intend to put it back on, do you?”
“Why would I? I already told you, I’m leaving.”
“Not until I know why.”
She jumped to her feet, gaping at him. “You’d keep me here against my will?”
Thorpe crossed an ankle over his knee and brushed an imaginary thread from his trousers. “Your tone suggests I should be uncomfortable with that idea. Until you’re honest with me, I assure you I’m not. Furthermore, if Kirkpatrick is troubling you, he’s nothing I can’t handle. Am I clear?”
Callie blinked at him, processing everything he’d delivered in that low, almost relaxed voice. She wasn’t fooled. Under his urbane, oh so cultured façade beat the heart of a predator. She’d seen him take rivals apart both mentally and physically. Thorpe wasn’t someone a sane person crossed.
Callie weighed her words carefully. “Sean made me realize I’m not cut out for a Dom/sub relationship.”
She sidestepped his question. “And I’m a little bored with Dallas. Los Angeles is calling my name. Every time Xander comes by and talks about his trips to the city, it sounds fabulous. It’s just time to move on.”
Thorpe said nothing for a long moment. He simply stood and towered over her, that charcoal stare boring into her. “There will be consequences for anything less than totally honesty, so think carefully, Callie. Would you like to recant or amend your statement in any way?”
Shit. Thorpe knew something. Or everything. Had he heard Sean’s declaration of love?
She tossed her head back and thrust her hands on her hips. This was going to be ugly no matter what. Might as well go for broke. “Butt out and stop acting like you’re my father.”
He stilled. “That’s one role I will never fill, but I have no problem putting you in your place.”
Callie didn’t even have a moment to wonder what his silky vow meant before he hauled her into his arms and dragged her, kicking and screaming, back to her bed. He sat, wrangling her with embarrassing ease, then spread his long legs and laid her over his lap, face down.
“You are not going to spank me!” she insisted.
Thorpe didn’t hesitate for an instant. “I am. I told you there would be consequences. You should know I always keep up my end of a bargain.
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