“Yes, you should learn your lesson,” Case said. “But you shouldn’t be punished forever. We’ll find a way to get you out, Cassini. I promise.”
I squeezed his arm. “The last thing I want is for something to happen to you. There’s nothing we can do against this man. Getting yourselves killed will only hurt me more. The best thing we can do is remain calm…and hope for the best.”
Balto grew impatient with our private conversation. “Baby, let’s go.”
I was surprised he’d called me that in public. It seemed like something he only did in private, unless he was trying to get a rise out of my brothers. “I’ll see you soon.” I hugged both of them. “I love you both.”
“We love you too.” Case released me reluctantly, like it was the hardest thing he’d ever had to do.
“I’ll be okay.” It wasn’t a lie, but it wasn’t the truth either. I just wanted to say something to ease his worry, to make this less unbearable. “I’ll see you soon.” I walked back to Balto, who wore the same icy expression.
Dressed in all black with short hair, he looked like the formidable man my brothers described him as. Even without that ring on his hand, he seemed like the criminal warlord he was rumored to be. I hadn’t been a victim of his cruelty, but I believed he was capable of terrible things.
I came to his side with a pained expression. I was relieved I got to see my brothers, but I wasn’t happy with the air of sadness I was leaving behind. They wanted to protect me because it was their job now that Father was gone—but it wasn’t possible.
Balto looked at me with the same hard expression, unaffected by the emotion in my eyes. The man was cold as ice and dry like a sponge. He couldn’t absorb the feelings around him because he was incapable of it. His eyes bored into mine a moment longer before he turned away. “The only reason Case is alive is because of you.”
I could have put Case and Dirk on the spot by mentioning their drug operation in the factory, but since I wasn’t a rat, I didn’t throw them under the bus. It was obvious Cassini had no idea what her brothers were up to, but they could share that information with her.
And I didn’t mention the fact that Cassini and I were having an affair for about a month before I took her. Our secret relationship was heated, passionate, and so scorching that I lost all interest in other women. I could have said their sister liked having me between her legs.
But again, I wasn’t a rat.
So I kept all their secrets to myself. I seemed to know more about their family than they did.
We drove back to the building, and I parked the truck.
“You need to give me more freedom.” She made the demand like she somehow had the right.
Her attitude always amused me. “I don’t have to do anything.” I got out of the truck and walked inside the elevator.
She came with me. “I could stay with Case during the nights you’re gone. I hate being here alone.”
We rose to the top floor and stepped inside the living room. “You aren’t alone.”
“But you aren’t here, so there’s no reason for me to be here.”
I turned to look at her. “I want you here when I get home.”
“Then I’ll come back before you—”
“I don’t need another man to look after my woman. Just because I’m not here doesn’t mean I’m not protecting you. Just because I’m not physically here doesn’t mean I’m not watching you. The answer is no. It’ll always be no.” I ignored the disappointed look on her face and walked into the kitchen to make lunch. I poured a glass of scotch and enjoyed that while I worked the pans.
She sat at the dining table, her chin propped on her knuckles and her eyes filled with a haze. Her thoughts were far away, thinking about her interaction with her brothers.
I finished making my lunch then took the seat across from her. “You aren’t going to eat anything?”
I stared at her thick, pouted lips as I ate, sipping my scotch every now and then.
“So, how are you going to punish me?”
“Are you going to hurt me?” She lowered both hands to the table and stared at her fingers, unable to meet my gaze as she waited to hear my answer.
I didn’t have a problem striking anyone who crossed me, even if it was a woman, but I had no urge to lay a hand on her. The last thing I wanted to do was hurt her, to bruise her beautiful skin and make her wince in pain. I enjoyed hurting my enemies, but that was because they deserved it. “No.”