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The Skull Crusher (Skull 2) Penelope Sky 2022/8/5 16:51:56

Dirk shook his head. “Everything has a price.”

“We could do something to Lucian,” Case offered. “Anything you want.”

“Don’t bother. Lucian is an opponent you can’t match. For Cassini’s sake, stay away from him. You won’t come back alive.”

“You underestimate us,” Case said coldly.

“No,” I said. “I’m just giving you a reality check. But I’ll make a deal with you. I’ll bring her by once a week so you can spend time with her. Once she and I work out our issues, she can come see you alone.”

Case sighed, like that only annoyed him. “She’s not an animal.”

“And I don’t treat her like she is. That woman is rich, protected, and safe. She can’t run off and do whatever she wants yet, but she’s treated like a queen.” I gave that woman whatever she wanted, a life of luxury.

“Queens aren’t captured and locked in a tower,” Dirk snapped.

“That’s the best I can offer you. Take it or leave it.”

Case stared at his brother.

“What are you going to do with her?” Case asked. “When Lucian wants her back, you’ll trade me for whatever he stole?”

I lifted my left hand. “He took one of my skull diamonds. And I’m not sure if I’ll trade her or not. I haven’t decided yet. He hasn’t offered yet.”

“She’s a fucking person,” Dirk snapped. “Not cash or diamonds.”

“She’s more valuable than both,” I said. “And let’s not pretend this isn’t how the real world works. You should both be happy I’m the one who has her and not someone else. Trust me, it could be much, much worse.”

“No,” Case said. “I can’t imagine anyone worse than you.”

I had private quarters at the Underground, so I stayed there for the night.

I didn’t intend to come home for several days.

Tomorrow evening, I would hit Hunter Reyes when he least expected it. That would take some time. I got into bed, the bed where I screwed most of my whores, and I stared at the ceiling as the sunrise started to pierce the curtains.

It was almost six in the morning.

My phone on my nightstand started to ring.

I answered, smiling because I knew exactly why she was calling. “Baby.”

“When are you coming home?” Exhaustion was in her voice, like she hadn’t slept at all. She was probably on the couch in her usual spot.

I liked the way she said home, that she considered my building to be her residence. “I don’t know.”

“What do you mean, you don’t know?”

“It might be a few days.” I was enjoying this so much.

“I’m fine. I’m sleeping at the Underground.”

“I don’t understand. Why don’t you just come home?”

“Because this is your punishment.”

The line went dead silent. She processed the horrifying news without conjuring a response.

She claimed she hated me, but she hated it more when I was gone. She felt vulnerable without my presence, without my ability to drive away the monsters. She didn’t know my twin was just one floor below, so if anything happened, he was right there. “I’ll be home in a few days.” I hung up.

My smile was wider now. “Yes?”

“Don’t hang up on me.”

I could feel her flames over the line. “Because I said so. And are you being serious right now? You’re just going to leave me here?”

“I just put groceries in the fridge.”

“That’s not the problem.”

“You should have thought of that before you pulled your little stunt.” She thought she’d outsmarted me with her lingerie, but I always had the upper hand. She got some time with her brothers, but now I would use her own weakness against her. She’d be uncomfortable until I finally walked through the door and chased her fears away. “I’ll see you in a few days.”

“Like, how many days? Two? Three?”

“I don’t know. Between two and six.”

“Six is almost a week.”

“What if I just leave?” she countered. “I could storm out of here and take off.”

“You’re welcome to try, but my men have their orders. If you try to leave, they’ll just drag you back up the elevator.”

She sighed into the phone. “This is just cruel.”

“Well, I’m a cruel man. Goodnight, baby.”

“Don’t you dare hang up on—”

I stayed at the Underground and prepared for our mission to catch Hunter Reyes off guard. He had a place in Tuscany, surrounded by stone walls and gardens for privacy. He produced his product there, hiding in plain sight. Tourists drove past the house and snapped pictures because the property was so beautiful, but they had no idea what sinister things lived inside.

My men wore bulletproof vests, but I hardly ever did. As the Skull King, I had to appear as menacing as possible. It was much more terrifying to be provoked by a man who was fearless, who was so unintimidated that he showed up without any protection. Even in the direst situations, I wore a smile on my face and pretended the whole thing was a joke. It was unnerving. I was a man unafraid of death, and it made provoking my enemies that much more fun.