Author: Shayla Black
Title: Theirs to Cherish (Wicked Lovers #8)
Genre: Erotic, Contemporary, Ménage, BDSM
The perfect place for a woman on the run to disappear…
Accused of a horrific murder she didn’t commit, former heiress Callie Ward has been a fugitive since she was sixteen—until she found the perfect hideout, Club Dominion. The only problem is she’s fallen for the club’s Master, Mitchell Thorpe, who keeps her at arm’s length. Little does she know that his reasons for not getting involved have everything to do with his wounded heart…and his consuming desire for her.
To live out her wildest fantasies…
Enter Sean Kirkpatrick, a Dom who’s recently come to Dominion and taken a pointed interest in Callie. Hoping to make Thorpe jealous, she submits to Sean one shuddering sigh at a time. It isn’t long before she realizes she’s falling for him too. But the tender lover who’s slowly seducing her body and earning her trust isn’t who he claims…
And to fall in love.
When emotions collide and truths are exposed, Sean is willing to risk all to keep Callie from slipping through his fingers. But he’s not the only man looking to stake a claim. Now Callie is torn between Sean and Thorpe, and though she’s unsure whom she can trust, she’ll have to surrender her body and soul to both—if she wants to elude a killer…
Callie trembled as she lay back on the padded table and Sean Kirkpatrick’s strong fingers wrapped around her cuffed wrist, guiding it back to the bindings above her head.
“I don’t know if I can do this,” she murmured.
He paused, then drew in a breath as if he sought patience. “Breathe, lovely.”
That gentle, deep brogue of his native Scotland brought her peace. His voice both aroused and soothed her, and she tried to let those feelings wash through her.
“Can you do that for me?” he asked.
His fingers uncurled from her wrist, and he grazed the inside of her outstretched arm with his knuckles. As always, his touch was full of quiet strength. He made her ache. She shivered again, this time for an entirely different reason.
Sean shook his head, his deep blue eyes seeming to see everything she tried to hide inside. That penetrating stare scared the hell out of her. What did he see when he looked at her? How much about the real her had he pieced together?
The thought made her panic. No one could know her secret. No one. She’d kept it from everyone, even Thorpe, during her four years at Dominion. She’d finally found a place where she felt safe, comfortable. Of course she’d have to give it up someday, probably soon. She always did. But please, not yet.
Deep breath. Don’t panic. He wants your submission, not your secrets.
“You’ll need to do better than try. You’ve been ‘trying’ for over six months,” he reminded her gently. “Do you think I’d truly hurt you?”
No. Sean didn’t seem to have a violent bone in his body. He wasn’t a sadist. He never gripped her harshly. He never even raised his voice. She’d jokingly thought of him as the sub whisperer because he pushed her boundaries with a gentleness she found both irresistible and insidious. Certainly, he’d dragged far more out of her than any other man had. Tirelessly, he’d worked to earn her trust. Callie felt terrible that she could never give it, not when doing so could be fatal.
Guilt battered her. She should stop wasting his time.
“I know you wouldn’t,” she assured, blinking up at him, willing him to understand.
“Of course not.” He pressed his chest over hers, leaning closer to delve into her eyes.
Callie couldn’t resist lowering her lids, shutting out the rest of the world. Even knowing she shouldn’t, she sank into the soft reassurance of his kiss. Each brush of his lips over hers soothed and aroused. Every time he touched her, her heart raced. Her skin grew tight. Her nipples hardened. Her pussy moistened and swelled. Her heart ached. Sean Kirkpatrick would be so easy to love.
As his fingers filtered into her hair, cradling her scalp, she exhaled and melted into his kiss—just for a sweet moment. It was the only one she could afford.
A fierce yearning filled her. She longed for him to peel off his clothes, kiss her with that determination she often saw stamped into his eyes, and take her with the single-minded fervor she knew he was capable of. But in the months since he’d collared her, he’d done nothing more than stroke her body, tease her, and grant her orgasms when he thought she’d earned them. She hadn’t let him fully restrain her. And he hadn’t yet taken her to bed.
Not knowing the feel of him deep inside her, of waiting and wanting until her body throbbed relentlessly, was making her buckets full of crazy.
After another skillful brush of his lips, Sean ended the kiss and lifted his head, breathing hard. She clung, not ready to let him go. How had he gotten under her skin so quickly? His tenderness filled her veins like a drug. The way he had addicted Callie terrified her.
“I want you. Sean, please . . .” She damn near wept.
With a broad hand, he swept the stray hair from her face. Regret softened his blue eyes before he ever said a word. “If you’re not ready to trust me as your Dom, do you think you’re ready for me as a lover? I want you completely open to me before we take that step. All you have to do is trust me, lovely.”
Callie slammed her eyes shut. This was so fucking pointless. She wanted to trust Sean, yearned to give him everything—devotion, honesty, faith. Her past ensured that she’d never give any of those to anyone. But he had feelings for her. About that, she had no doubt. They’d grown just as hers had, unexpectedly, over time, a fledgling limb morphing into a sturdy vine that eventually created a bud just waiting to blossom . . . or die.
She knew which. They could never have more than this faltering Dom/sub relationship, destined to perish in a premature winter.
The responsible choice would be to call her safe word, walk out, quit him. Release them both from this hell. Never look back.
For the first time in nearly a decade, Callie worried that she might not have the strength to say good-bye.
What was wrong with her tonight? She was too emotional. She needed to pull up her big-girl panties and snap on her bratty attitude, pretend that nothing mattered. It was how she’d coped for years. But she couldn’t seem to manage that with Sean.
“You’re up in your head, instead of here with me,” he gently rebuked her.
Another dose of guilt blistered her. “Sorry, Sir.”
Sean sighed heavily, stood straight, then held out his hand to her. “Come with me.”
Callie winced. If he intended to stop the scene, that could only mean he wanted to talk. These sessions where he tried to dig through her psyche became more painful than the sexless nights she spent in unfulfilled longing under his sensual torture.
Swallowing down her frustration, she dredged up her courage, then put her hand in his.
Holding her in a steady grip, Sean led her to the far side of Dominion’s dungeon, to a bench in a shadowed corner. As soon as she could see the rest of the room, Callie felt eyes on her, searing her skin. With a nonchalant glance, she looked at the others sceneing around them, but they seemed lost in their own world of pleasure, pain, groans, sweat, and need. A lingering sweep of the room revealed another sight that had the power to drop her to her knees. Thorpe in the shadows. Staring. At her with Sean. His expression wasn’t one of disapproval exactly . . . but he wasn’t pleased.
Sean sat, then pulled her onto his lap, supporting her back with a strong grip around her waist. He cupped her chin in his palm and sent her a pointed glance. “Eyes on me, lovely.”
She complied, trying not to think about the fact that it was getting harder and harder to meet his stare and not give herself to him for real.
Originally, she’d allowed Sean into her life because he irritated Thorpe, who sometimes looked at her as if she were the brightest star in the sky, then always chose another woman to master. She’d wanted to make him jealous. Hell, she’d wanted to see if he even gave a shit. Sean had walked into the club with his quiet sophistication and dry humor, taken one look at her, and never glanced at anyone else. It had done her ego a world of good—until Thorpe had removed his protection and allowed Sean to collar her. Without so much as blinking, he’d let her go.
So why the hell was Thorpe watching her now?
“You’re away with the fairies, Callie. Get out of your head,” Sean growled. “Focus on me. Or we’ll end tonight now.”
That would be better, smarter. And everything inside her rebelled at the thought of Sean leaving. She clung, in fact. After all, she never knew if she’d have a tomorrow with anyone.
“I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be preoccupied.”
His face softened a bit. “What’s troubling you?”
A million things she could never confess. She plucked at the first excuse off the top of her head. “You don’t want me.”
He grabbed her face in his hands. “You have no idea how untrue that is, lovely. I fantasize about laying you out under me and sinking so deep inside you that you’ll not ever forget the feel of me. Never doubt that I want you.”
His words made Callie flush hot all over. “Don’t you think sex would bring us closer?”
A wry smile crossed his wide mouth, and she couldn’t resist brushing her fingers through the waves of his dark hair. He was so blindingly handsome. He’d been her perfect revenge against Thorpe’s indifference. She just hadn’t planned on him stealing his way into her heart. And now she had no idea what to do.
“It’s a tempting notion, isn’t it? But I know me too well. Once we start that, I won’t stop. And we’ve far too much trust to grow between us to be distracted. I also know you. Sex is easy, isn’t it? True intimacy is hard. I don’t think you’ve ever had it, and you’re a bit too good at dodging it. I’m looking for more than a fuck, Callie. I want the real thing, and I won’t rush because my cock is aching.”
She had to find the only sensitive man in a BDSM dungeon. She would have been better off with someone who just wanted her to kneel, call him Sir, and liked to dish out a good paddling now and then. Perversely, that had never attracted her. Sean’s big heart did, and she feared that she would break both his and hers before the end.
Maybe this time will be different. Maybe the past will stay there. Four years is the longest you’ve stayed in one place. Maybe it’s time to stop running and finally live.
Callie drew in a shaking breath. “I’ll try again. Really try. Tell me what you want, Sir.”
“That’s a girl.” Sean eased her to her feet and led her back to the padded table.
A glance up proved Thorpe had gone. Probably for the best. He was far too controlled and sexual for her. If she ever truly put herself in his hands, he’d pry her soul wide open in no time at all. She couldn’t take that risk.
“Lie flat for me, lovely.”
As soon as the gorgeous Scot helped her onto the cushioned surface, she stretched out. He quickly secured her cuffed ankles. That didn’t fill her with too much panic. Then he grasped her wrist and began to clip in one of the cuffs. Almost immediately, her trembling began again. Callie gritted her teeth and fought to give in to Sean. She wanted to. God knew she did.
It wasn’t that she didn’t trust him. But what if someone recognized her? What if the police busted up the joint? What if she needed to flee and couldn’t?
“Close your eyes. Take a deep breath.”
She ought to be wondering what she was going to do if she failed again and he left for the night. Or for good. She didn’t want to be without him, and that kind of desperation was so dangerous . . .
Callie forced herself to comply. Instantly, her other senses jumped in. A woman in the far corner was having a very noisy orgasm. A male sub in the vicinity of the row of St. Andrew’s crosses grunted with every lash of the whip from his top. Somewhere nearby, she heard one of the dungeon monitors speak in low tones. Her own labored breathing gradually canceled it all out. Her thundering heartbeat did the rest until she focused solely on Sean.
“Good. What’s your safe word?” he crooned, leaning closer.
“Summer.” Callie swallowed. She missed that horse. The little brown filly had been her most constant companion after her mother’s death. No doubt, the mare was dead now. She’d never had the chance to say good-bye to her four-legged friend.
She let loose a ragged breath.
“Excellent,” he praised as he bound her cuffed her wrist to the table.
Her entire body tensed. She dragged in a harsh breath. Her heartbeat ramped up even more. Her palms began to sweat. Excitement and fear mingled into a heady cocktail drugging her veins.
“You’re making progress. I’m proud of you.” Sean cupped her cheek. “Relax. Trust me. Put yourself in my hands.”
How wonderful that sounded. How tempting . . . She nestled into his touch, forcing back a swell of devotion that was nothing more than a waste.
Callie wasn’t one of those women who didn’t know why her soul cried out to submit. It didn’t take Freud to understand that a girl who’d spent nearly a decade being entirely responsible for her own welfare in a life-or-death struggle sought to turn all of that over to a Dominant partner for his broad shoulders to bear. Of course, she also wanted her family alive and whole as well. She always wanted what she couldn’t have.
Gawd, she needed to turn out the lights on this pity party and give Sean all she could now. Tomorrow, she’d apologize for being much less than he needed, then sever the ties between them—before she could no longer find the will. Of course she’d lie and wish him well in his quest to find another submissive who could be his true love. Watching that would be too painful, so she’d soon have to leave. Sadly, Thorpe wouldn’t miss her much, either. No one would. Exactly as she’d planned it.
The realization wrenched her heart.
Callie had been desperately ignoring the writing on the wall for months. She’d allowed herself to become emotionally compromised and far too relaxed. Sean kept prying deeper into her psyche. If she wasn’t careful, it wouldn’t be long before he put two and two together. The questions he asked already made her nervous.
Maybe the time to depart Dominion had already come. No, she knew it had. She needed to leave everything behind. Pack up and move on. The sooner the better.
“Callie . . .” His tone was a warning.
She heaved in a cleansing breath and shoved every thought from her mind, centering herself on his presence and her need to submit to him just this once . . .
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About the Author:
You know what they say about curiosity and the cat…but if you still want to know, read below.
Shayla Black (aka Shelley Bradley) is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over 40 sizzling contemporary, erotic, paranormal, and historical romances produced via traditional, small press, independent, and audio publishing. She lives in Texas with her husband, munchkin, and one very spoiled cat. In her “free” time, she enjoys reality TV, reading and listening to an eclectic blend of music.
Shayla’s books have been translated in about a dozen languages. She has also received or been nominated for The Passionate Plume, The Holt Medallion, Colorado Romance Writers Award of Excellence, and the National Reader’s Choice Awards. RT Bookclub has twice nominated her for Best Erotic Romance of the year, as well as awarded her several Top Picks, and a KISS Hero Award.
A writing risk-taker, Shayla enjoys tackling writing challenges with every new book.
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