Theirs to Cherish is the eighth novel in Shayla Black’s Wicked Lover’s series, and the first I’ve read. I felt like I was jumping into the middle of a story, but the narrative quickly got me up to speed. The novel opens with Callie Ward, an heiress who has been on the run for nearly a decade, accused of killing her father and sister for her inheritance. She shows up on the proverbial doorstep of Logan Edgington, a former Navy SEAL who had no reason to help her “given how bratty she’d been to him.” She tells him she needs his help to “disappear.”
It’s not the first time Callie has needed to disappear. For the past four years, she has been hiding her identity at Dominion, a fetish club where she found unlikely sanctuary.
At Dominion, she fell for the club’s master, Mitchell Thorpe. But she has long been frustrated by the way he keeps her at arm’s length, and instead lets herself succumb to a Dom named Sean Kirkpatrick, a new member of Dominion. He set his sights on her immediately, and “Thorpe had removed his protection and allowed Sean to collar her.” Soon, she falls for Sean, but he’s not who he appears to be.
When this novel opens, Callie believes she’s been betrayed by Sean: “The moment Callie had realized the extent of her Sir’s betrayal, she’d run like hell. She’d gotten too comfortable. Complacent. Almost dangerously happy.” She knows that she can turn to Logan, that she can trust him. She tells him that she can’t go back to Dominion ever again. And that her name isn’t Callie Ward. She is actually Callindra Howe, the missing heiress from Chicago. She also tells him that her Dom is trying to kill her.
We flash back to three days earlier. Callie is strapped to a padded table. As a sub, there is only so much she can give. But if there is anyone who can get her to release completely, it’s Sean: “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.”
Instead, she gives herself to him sexually and Sean admits that he loves her. Thorpe overhears all of this and it’s torture to him. We get the point of view of both men, and it’s clear that they are both in love with Callie. While Callie thought Thorpe had rejected her, the opposite is true: “He’d always believed that by walking away from her that December night two years ago, he could prevent her from breaking his heart. Thorpe didn’t find it comforting to be proven so wrong.”
But when Callie finds an old photo of herself on his phone — a yearbook photo from the time of her family’s murder — she realizes that Sean has known her true identity all along. She immediately goes on the run, and leaving Thorpe and Sean — two men who can’t stand one another — to band together and go on the road to find her. Sean tells Thorpe: “As much as I hate to say it, I need your help to find her.” Thorpe asks hims, “What happens when we do?” Sean says, “You mean who gets the girl? That’s up to Callie. She loves us both.”
I don’t want to give away the how and why of all of this, Sean’s true motivation, and all the twists and turns on the way to resolving Callie’s violent past. It’s well worth the read to learn the outcome of this steamy love triangle.