The blacked-out Hummer approached a three-story building in the heart of Florence. Just a few blocks from the biggest church in the city, there were no lights in the windows and it seemed deserted.
I hadn’t said a word.
A garage door opened on the side of the building, and one by one, the vehicles descended into an underground garage. Armed men were already there as the vehicles were parked.
I sat in my black cocktail dress, my left ring finger comfortable now that my wedding ring had been ditched. I’d tossed it on the table like it was garbage—because it was garbage to me. My hand throbbed slightly from the way I’d struck Lucian. I could have broken my hand, and I still wouldn’t have regretted it. Hopefully, his cheek was red for a week.
Balto stepped out of the car and greeted his men.
I stepped out and suddenly felt like I was on display in my backless dress and heels. All the men turned their gazes on me, lust and aggression in their eyes. They looked me up and down like I was a model on the runway. Their guns were lowered, but their eyes were packed with violence.
Balto gave orders to his men, and they immediately dispersed. The underground garage was full of armored vehicles and shelves of guns and ammunition. It was a battle station where men prepared for war.
I crossed my arms over my chest and lingered in the back, unsure what was next. Would we stay here? Or would we return to his place?
Balto came back to me when he was finished. “Let’s go.”
He didn’t answer me as he walked off. On the other side of the garage was a brown pickup. It wasn’t shiny or new, instead, at least a decade old and unremarkable. It didn’t seem like the kind of car a crime lord would drive. Lucian had a Ferrari, and he’d picked out a Bugatti for me. Balto didn’t seem to care what he drove.
I followed behind him, not out of obedience, but because I didn’t want to hang around fifty armed men who didn’t know how to keep their eyes to themselves.
We both got into the truck, and Balto drove to a gated opening on the backside of the building. He emerged onto the street then drove away, his eyes scanning the roads and sidewalks along the route.
I eyed the old radio in the center console. It still had a CD player, something that was obsolete in modern times. He didn’t have a backup camera or a digital speedometer. The truck had to be at least a decade old, and for someone who owned an entire building for himself, that didn’t quite make sense.
I looked at him from my side of the truck, seeing the muscles of his jawline shift and move slightly as he remained absorbed in his thoughts. He was a pretty man—but a man clearly violent and unpredictable.
“Yes?” he asked, his voice filled with annoyance.
“I can’t look at you?”
“You aren’t looking. You are staring.”
“You stare at me all the time.”
“That’s different.” He drove with one hand on the wheel, the other resting against the windowsill. “I own you. I can stare at my property all I want.”
“You don’t own me.” Lucian had said those words to me for the last two years, and I was sick of being someone’s property. I’d been sleeping with Balto because he pleased me, but I didn’t sign my soul over to him. “You said you would kill him for me if I asked. You said you would help me if I asked.”
He turned his gaze on me, ignoring the road ahead. Lights from the street and passing cars reflected in his eyes, adding to his terrifying image. “And you didn’t ask. I gave you a way out, and you refused to take it. I took you because I wanted you, because I wanted to punish my enemy and please myself at the same time. Make no mistake, baby. I did this for me—not you.” He turned his gaze back to the road and arrived at the compound surrounding his building. He pulled inside, where his men were guarding the property.
“You can’t be serious.” Did I just leave the imprisonment of one dictator only to be a prisoner of another?
“Dead serious.” He killed the engine and hopped out of the truck.
I followed him, feeling his men stare at me as my heels tapped against the asphalt of his parking lot. “After everything that man has put me through, you’re just going to do the same thing?”
He entered the building then punched in the code for the elevator. “I’m sorry if I gave you the impression I was a good man.”
“You did offer to help me.”
“And you didn’t take that offer.” The doors opened, and he stepped inside. “When I realized you were Lucian’s wife, I found another way to torture him. I killed his brother right before his eyes, and now I’ll fuck his wife every night. I will torture him until he submits to me—and I will enjoy every second of it.” He hit the button, and the elevator rose to the top floor. He stepped off and pulled out his wallet and keys before setting them on the table.