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The Skull King (Skull 1) Penelope Sky 2022/8/5 16:50:58

I didn’t glance over my shoulder. “Yes.”

“You look identical.”

“Hence, identical twins.”

The corner of her mouth rose in a smile. “So you’re always a smartass, then?”

“Always.” I left her a fat tip before I joined my brother on the other side of the room. The auction was about to start, but that wasn’t why we were there. We headed into the back room where my tall, black chair sat at the head of the table. The wood had been carved to look like skulls. If you gripped the chair too tightly, it would slice your hand. Fortunately, my hands were so callused from guns and knives that my skin didn’t break easily. I took a seat and my brother sat to my left.

Brutus was there, sitting on my right with a noticeable scar down his face. Thomas was there too, his drink steady in his hand.

The Skull Kings were a highly organized ring of criminals, all of them serving me. Just a few years ago, there had been a different Skull King—but I took over. I was exactly what this organization needed—and my profits proved it. “Heath will be joining us.” Heath was recruited because of my special treatment. Lots of men wanted to be part of us, but we didn’t take amateurs. It was an exclusive gig because the pay was so high. We didn’t want any trash off the streets.

Brutus drank from his glass but didn’t object.

Thomas nodded in agreement. “Skills?”

“I’m the full package,” Heath said. “Give me a job, and I’ll see it through.” He had perfect aim, and his hand-to-hand combat was exceptional as well. If someone needed to have my back, I’d want it to be him.

But I didn’t need to stick up for him.

“Loyalty?” Brutus asked.

“He’s family.” I rested my elbows on the table. “Enough said.”

The two men dropped their questions.

“So, what’s on the agenda?” I was in a slightly sour mood because Cassini had ignored me for the past week. I admired her for trying, but this drought was getting tedious. I could have taken the waitress home or picked up a hooker, but there was only one pussy I wanted to bang. I was wrapped up in her cunt so pathetically that I couldn’t see straight. I could pay the best hooker in Florence for a great time, but I knew that wouldn’t hit the spot.

“Rumor has it that Lucian will be at the opera on Saturday night.” Brutus stared at my brother even though he was speaking to me. “He’s got a box in the balcony. Then he’ll be meeting with a few men afterward.”

I hadn’t forgotten one of my biggest enemies. He’d crossed me, and while he’d gotten one of the most expensive diamonds in the world, it’d cost him his brother’s life. After his brother was buried, I dug up the grave and left it empty—just to remind him that I hadn’t forgotten.

He was too chickenshit to do anything.

He might be a strong man with his own army, but I was more powerful.

He probably hoped I would forget about him and move on.

I liked to torture my prey before I killed it. Then I liked to play with my food before I ate it. Lucian had had to look over his shoulder every single day for the past few years. Sometimes, I showed up when he least expected it, and I saw how unnerved it made him. He knew I was playing games, and he couldn’t cover up his natural fearful reaction of when his eyes landed on me. He was never quick enough.

One day, I would make my move. But in the meantime, I would make his death slow and painful. I would make him feel innately unsafe, like the fifty guards on his property were never really enough to protect him.

If he weren’t scared of me, he would have pursued me by now.

But he knew I was untouchable.

All he could do was hope he would be ready when I made my move.

He wouldn’t sell the diamond he took from me, not when it would make his brother’s death truly in vain. Then it really would be about money, and that would make him feel cheap. He’d intended to cross me before we’d even met—but he’d paid the price for his arrogance. Bad things didn’t just happen to bad men. Bad things happened to bad men who didn’t keep their word. He’d lost all my respect that afternoon—and now I couldn’t find a suitable punishment.

“Lucian is the one who took the diamond?” Heath asked.

“Does he still have it?” Brutus asked.

I nodded again. My men tracked him regularly, and he was seen wearing it on a chain around his neck. It was usually tucked under his shirt, like he didn’t want anyone to know he was wearing it, but it was also too valuable to keep at home or in a vault.