Page 29

The Skull Crusher (Skull 2) Penelope Sky 2022/8/5 16:51:55

“She’ll never be yours, asshole,” Case spat. “A man can’t own a woman who doesn’t want to be owned. A real man can get a woman without paying her or stealing her. The fact that you have to force her just shows who you really are—a pathetic jackass.”

Balto could have mentioned our affair and the fact that it was completely consensual. I was the one calling him most of the time. I was the one who never wanted to leave his arms. But he kept that information private.

“Let her go.” Case did something really stupid and shoved Balto in the chest.

Like a mountain, Balto didn’t move. He only looked amused. “Be careful, Case. Your sister asked me not to hurt you, but if you touch me again, I’ll have to break your hand.”

Just as I anticipated, Case pulled his fist back to punch him in the face.

I grabbed his elbow and pushed him back. “Case, stop. It’s not going to change anything.”

Case pushed me off, handling me with more aggression than he ever had before. “She’s been through enough. Let her go.”

Balto looked just as amused as he did at the beginning of the conversation. “Never.”

The hope left my lungs with the breath I took. I didn’t know how long I would be a prisoner to this man, but forever was such a burden, I could barely take it.

“Lucian crossed me—and she’s the key to torturing him.” Balto stepped forward. “I took one of his most valuable possessions, and it’s driving him mad this very instant. He’ll either give me what I want in exchange for her, or he’ll make a move against me—and lose. Your sister is the key to all of this. So don’t expect to ever get her back.”

Hearing the finality in his voice made me realize there was no hope. I could either be valuable to Balto long enough that by the time he lost interest in me, Lucian wouldn’t want me. Or I could be handed back to Lucian in exchange for precious commodities. Both options weren’t great, but I had the best opportunity for freedom with Balto. Or maybe I would get lucky and someone else would kill Lucian. With him out of the way, I could cut out the tracker in my ankle and run away. This wasn’t how I wanted to spend my twenties, but accepting my situation was less painful than fighting against it. Balto was too powerful to overcome. He was the most ruthless man in this country. I didn’t stand a chance, and neither did my brothers.

Case stood there, speechless. There was so much rage on his face, but there was nothing he could do with it. His hands balled into fists as he stood there, completely helpless.

Dirk stared down Balto like he was considering stabbing him in the gut.

“Case.” I gripped his arm and dragged him away along with Dirk. “You need to let this go.”

“How do you expect me to do that?” he hissed, his voice quiet. “I’m just supposed to be okay with this? You have no idea who that man is. He’s a psychotic murderer. There’s no line that man won’t cross. Maybe you prefer him to Lucian now, but when you really get to know him, you won’t feel that way.”

Maybe that was true, but this was the hand I’d been dealt. “Eventually, he’ll get tired of me. Hopefully that happens when Lucian is dead or has moved on. Then there’s no reason why he won’t let me go.”

“Or he’ll kill you.” Case glanced at him over my shoulder.

Maybe I didn’t know the man like I thought I did, but I couldn’t picture him killing me without reason. There had been lots of times when I disobeyed him and tested his temper, but not once did he punch me in the stomach. I told him off to his face, and there were never repercussions. He said he would punish me for my stunt last night, but if he were going to hurt me, he would have done it already. “I don’t think he’ll do that.”

“Then you don’t know him very well,” Dirk said. “You have no idea who this man really is. He’s the Skull King. He runs this country in plain sight. He owns the police, the prisons, and all the criminals. This guy has his thumb pressed into everyone.”

With a title like that, I didn’t doubt he was a scary man. But I wasn’t a criminal or an enemy. I was just a woman. “I’m just trying to be optimistic.”

“That might help you sleep at night,” Case said. “But that doesn’t help us. You deserve to be free. Deserve to be happy.”

“Well…I’ve learned that life isn’t fair.” I looked my brother in the eye. “We play with the hand we’re dealt and hope we get a better card. I’m in this situation because of a bad decision…and now I have to face the consequences.”