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The Skull King (Skull 1) Penelope Sky 2022/8/5 16:51:02

He didn’t turn to look at me. He had armed men posted all over the patio and the land of his estate.

My breathing immediately changed because I could sense the danger. There was definitely something happening that evening, and not something good. When I glanced at Lucian, I could tell he was distressed. All his armed men didn’t make him feel safe. He was on his own property, but he still didn’t feel comfortable.

I wanted to ask what was going on, but I was smart enough not to.

Headlights flashed as a car pulled into the roundabout. The engine was audible until it was killed right in front of the house. Men exited the car, and several Hummers followed in behind it. Men stepped out of the Hummers next, all heavily armed and wearing bulletproof vests.

My pulse quickened, and I wished Balto were there. Even if it were just him alone, I would feel much safer. Right now, I was in the center of a battlefield. Men were armed on both sides, and I had no idea why the war was even being fought.

A man walked up the stairs of the patio flanked by four armed men. When his figure was highlighted by the lights of the porch, I could see his countenance clearly. Showing sharp cheekbones, crystal-blue eyes, and skin so fair it resembled snow, was the man who had been buried deep inside me just days ago.

My heart raced—but for a different reason altogether.

In a black t-shirt and jeans, he was dressed casually compared to Lucian. The only time I’d ever seen Balto wear something nice was the night of the opera. Any other time, he stuck to jeans. He didn’t need to wear a suit to seem powerful. Only losers like Lucian did.

He didn’t look at me once, his eyes on Lucian. He pulled out a chair, sat down, and then stared at Lucian like he was a cockroach. “You aren’t even going to offer me a drink?”

My breathing hitched, but I tried to cover it. The tension was palpable between the two men. All the guards had their fingers on the trigger, waiting for the massacre the second it broke out. I didn’t understand why I needed to be there, why Lucian would risk my safety just to show me off.

“Why would I do that?” Lucian asked.

“Because I’ve been kind enough to let you live this long.” Balto cocked his head slightly. “But my kindness is running out.”

Lucian was still as a statue.

“What is your decision?” Balto didn’t cross his legs the way Lucian did. He was always casual, taking up as much space as possible and failing to use manners. He didn’t seem to care what anyone thought of him—because his reputation was good enough. The skull ring sat on his right hand, the diamond so flawless, it was impossible to ignore. The metal band was always hard to the touch when he palmed my breast and ass.

Lucian held his silence.

Balto reached into his pocket and pulled out a cigar. He lit it a second later then let the smoke escape from his mouth with a slow rise. Every time I saw him with Lucian, he had a cigar in his mouth, but when I kissed him, I never tasted the ash. He took another deep puff then rested the cigar between his fingers on the table. He glanced at Lucian’s burned hand, a subtle hint to what he would do next.

I knew Lucian well enough to understand he was afraid. Surrounded by armed men on his own property, he was still afraid.

Balto seemed perfectly comfortable. “I’m going to ask you one more time. The diamond or the explosives? What will it be?”

“And if I choose neither?” Lucian asked, keeping his voice strong even though sweat gleamed on his forehead. “You can’t kill me. You need me for whatever plans you have. And you have no idea where I’ve placed the diamond.”

Balto leaned forward over the table. “We both know there are worse things than death.” The cigar moved to his lips, and he drew the smoke into his mouth. A second later, the gray smoke escaped from his nostrils.

Lucian kept his hands in his lap, glancing at the men around him.

“So that’s your final answer?” Balto rudely put out the cigar on the surface of the table.

“Be a man and voice your decision.”

Lucian cleared his throat. “My final answer is neither, Balto.”

The smoke slowly dissipated from the burned-out cigar. A pile of ash formed on the table, and the smell faded away. Balto stared at Lucian with an unreadable expression, a look so calm, it was actually terrifying.

With Balto there, I was safe. But I was definitely unnerved.

Balto rose to his feet. “I was hoping you would say that.”

“I’ve got no family left, so what are you going to do?”