She lifted her gaze to meet mine. “Will you ever hurt me?”
I didn’t want to be honest because she would assume she could get away with anything. But I didn’t need violence to keep her in line. There were a million other things I could do. “No.”
Her eyes softened slightly.
“Violence isn’t the only way to keep someone in line.”
“Punishing me and keeping me in line are two very different things. I don’t think you’ll ever be able to keep me in line.”
“I’m up for the challenge.” I ate everything on my plate then enjoyed my scotch as I looked at her.
“Isn’t it a little early to be drinking?”
“It’s never too early.” My schedule was all over the place. Sometimes I went to bed early, sometimes I didn’t sleep at all. Time didn’t mean the same thing to me as it did to everyone else. “Want some?” I pushed the glass across the surface toward her.
She pushed it back. “I’m not a scotch kinda lady.”
My hand slid it across the table toward her. “That’s gonna have to change.”
“Why?” She left the glass in front of her.
“You’re gonna have a hard time fitting in at the Underground.”
“What’s the Underground?”
“Our headquarters. You were near there for a brief time when I took you from Lucian.” Or at least, she was in the parking lot of an adjacent building.
She finally took a drink and didn’t make a face when it moved down her throat. “I still don’t see what the fuss is about. And if I drank as much as you, I’d be drunk all the time.”
“I’d love to see you drunk.”
“It’s not very entertaining. I’m usually pretty quiet.”
“Then I’ll get you really drunk.”
“What are you like drunk?”
I was always drunk. “How I am right now.”
She raised an eyebrow.
“I haven’t been sober in at least a decade.”
“That’s not good for your liver.”
“I’m gonna die young anyway, so it doesn’t matter.”
“Why is that?” She set the glass in front of me.
“In my line of business, your career is short.”
Now that we were talking, she wasn’t in such a sour mood. She wore a white t-shirt that looked lovely against her skin tone. And her luscious hair moved past her chest, the strands dark and soft. “That doesn’t bother you?”
“Everyone is afraid to die.”
“I’m more afraid of living too old. At a certain age, we become weak. I’d rather die at my strongest than be murdered at my weakest. I want to die with honor, not be hunted like a weak animal.”
“Why would someone hunt you down? You would retire eventually then live a quiet life.”
“Retirement isn’t for everyone, especially me.” I would sit alone in a large house and count down the days until death. Maybe my brother would still be around for company, but probably not. It would be a quiet and lonely existence, one without much purpose.
“You don’t want to live peacefully with your wife and kids?”
I nearly did a double take because her question was so absurd. “Do I look like a family man to you? I pay for whores, and I’ve taken you prisoner for revenge. And you think I’ll take a wife someday?”
She shrugged. “People change.”
“Yes. But not drastically.”
“Do you ever want that?”
I didn’t bother answering her question. This was a stupid conversation.
When she didn’t get an answer, she kept talking. “I know that’s something I want. A husband, two kids, and a place outside the city with a yard.”
She would never get it. She would either be my prisoner forever, return to Lucian, or die. There was no picture-perfect family in her future. I grabbed the glass and took a long drink. It’d been almost three weeks, and Lucian hadn’t contacted me. I’d expected him to cave by now.
“So…they call you the Skull King?”
I lifted my left hand, showing the ring that distinguished my power. “Yes.”
“And they call you that because of the ring?”
“No. I’m the Skull King because I’m in charge. The ring has nothing to do with it. It shows my fearlessness, that I wear this billion-euro ring constantly because I’m not scared that someone will try to steal it. In fact, I hope they do. Nothing I enjoy more than snapping an idiot’s neck.”
“Are you afraid someone will steal Lucian’s?”
I shrugged. “I’m sure he hid it away somewhere safe now that he knows we’re at war.”
“What are the Skull Kings? What do you do, exactly?”
“The Skull Kings started decades ago as a group of assassins. If you paid the right price, the Skull Kings would kill anyone you wanted. Over time, it morphed into something else. Soon, they became arms dealers. Then it continued to expand more and more. Under my reign, we monitor everything in this country. I tax all of my criminals and take a percentage of their profits.”
“Why would they agree to pay you?”