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The Skull King (Skull 1) Penelope Sky 2022/8/5 16:51:00

Lucian stared at him coldly, doing his best not to fidget in place. “What do you want, Balto?”

“Let’s not play games.” He set the cigar on the table next to Lucian, letting the ashes fall onto the cocktail napkin. At any moment, it could catch fire, but he didn’t seem to care. “You know what I want. It’s the same thing I’ve wanted all these long years. I’ve given you the opportunity to do the right thing on your own—but you’re too stupid to figure it out.” He stared him down with that ice-cold gaze.

The tension was so palpable, I could barely breathe.

Lucian barely turned to me when he addressed me. “Leave us.”

I didn’t question his command—not this time.

“No.” Balto’s command made me go rigid. “She stays.” He turned his eyes on me for the first time, a possessive sheen noticeable. “Sit.”

I slowly lowered myself back down to the chair.

Lucian turned to Balto. “Leave her out of this.”

“Why?” Balto asked. “Don’t want her to end up like your brother?”

I knew his brother was dead, but I didn’t know what had happened to him. Now I wondered if Balto had killed him.

Lucian held his gaze, but the rage entered his look. “I’ve got fifty men outside the building. It won’t take them long to figure out what happened. And when they do, you’ll be dead.”

“Is that supposed to scare me?” Balto asked, that arrogant smirk on his face. “They chased me out the back way like two dogs looking for a treat. You employ a million imbeciles because you’re too cheap to pay for someone decent.”

Lucian didn’t have a comeback to that.

I watched Lucian treat his men and employees like shit every single day. It wouldn’t surprise me if they betrayed him so they wouldn’t have to deal with him anymore. I didn’t know Balto well, but he seemed like he had a lot more integrity.

Balto grabbed his cigar then leaned forward, coming close to Lucian. “Give me what you promised. Maybe I’ll let you live. Tormenting you all these years has been fun, but I don’t want you to have a heart attack on me.”

“You give yourself too much credit.” Lucian spoke through clenched teeth, powerless to do anything other than sit there and talk.

“I saw the way you almost shit yourself when you saw me. It’s the same look you have every time I catch you off guard—like your heart just fell into your ass. We could end it now if you just grow some balls.” He lowered the cigar to the top of Lucian’s hand, the hot ash almost coming into contact with it.

Lucian didn’t move, but his hand trembled.

“What’s it going to be? The diamond, or all of your explosives?”

Lucian cocked an eyebrow. “All of them? That’s a little—”

“A little what?” Balto pressed the hot cigar into Lucian’s flesh.

Lucian clenched his jaw and groaned under his breath. He tried to pull his hand away.

Balto snatched it back. He looked his enemy in the eye as he kept the cigar in place, letting the hot ember burn into his skin and leave a permanent mark. Once the ashes finally burned out, he dropped the cigar on the table.

There was a noticeable scar on Lucian’s hand, a burn that would never fade.

Served him right after hitting me in the stomach.

“I’ll give you time to think it over.” Balto grabbed the glass of scotch and poured it over Lucian’s hand. “Give me what I asked for—or I’ll demand something more valuable than both. Last time, it cost your brother’s life. Who will it be this time?” His eyes moved to mine, a special quality in his gaze. He could examine Lucian with such coldness, but then look at me like he wanted to fuck me right against that wall.

It was the first time I really saw Balto for who he was. He wasn’t just the mysterious and sexy stranger who kept the sheets warm. Now he was in his element, thriving under the aura of pain and corruption. He’d put Lucian in his place in a way no one else ever did. And like a predator, he preferred to stalk and play with his food for weeks before he actually killed it. He could kill Lucian right now if he wanted to, but he needed him for something. “It was lovely to meet you, Mrs. Salazar.”

Lucian was silent on the drive home.

He sat beside me in the back seat, his injured hand resting on his left thigh. He looked out the window, his sour mood filling the air as we headed to his estate outside the city. The shadows obscured his countenance from view, but it was obvious he was insanely pissed.

His hand had just been burned with a cigar, and he’d been schooled like a boy.

Couldn’t blame him for being pissed.